Many of us are under the belief that the Jacksonville Jaguars plan to franchise tag Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis, and I am one of those people who hold that belief. Most of us are under the impression that the NFL teams will have full use to apply the franchise tag to potential free agents on their team prior to the collective bargaining agreement expiring and can do so beginning on February 10th, 2011. Why shouldn't we, the league told us as much?
...clubs have the right to tag players, the agreement continues with the same terms and conditions that it has been; it isn’t expiring until March 4 and the window to franchise players is 14 days. From our standpoint, you have every right to franchise players.
As of yesterday however, that may not be the case at all. I tweeted yesterday that the NFLPA had began informing NFL agents that the franchise tag was considered meaningless if the current CBA expires. In a memo to certified agents, the NFLPA claims that the 2011 season is not a season agreed upon by the current set of CBA rules, so the NFL teams have no authority to do so.
We have received reports that the NFL is advising clubs that they can place a franchise tag on players whose contracts will expire at the end of the 2010 league year. The current CBA provides that ‘each club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent [or Restricted Free Agent] as a Franchise Player each season during the term of this Agreement.' The 2011 season is not a ‘season during the term of this Agreement' so the NFL has no valid basis for claiming the right to franchise players in 2011.
So, for everyone who was expecting the franchise tag to be slapped on Marcedes Lewis might want to think again. While the tag could still be applied, it's not really official. The NFLPA is trying to get the message out to agents to tell their players that the franchise tag is essentially worthless and to ignore it. It's also entirely possible if a new CBA is worked out prior to the current CBA's expiration, that the franchise tag could disappear completely. However unlikely that may be, it's a dangerous game teams will have to play. Do you franchise a player and run the risk of the tag being nullified under a new deal?
The only sure fire solution is to lock Marcedes Lewis up long-term with an actual contract.