Playing Tag

Posted Feb 10, 2011

The Chiefs haven't used the franchise tag since placing the designation on DE Jared Allen in 2008

While Collective Bargaining Agreement talks continue to dominate national headlines, both Head Coach Todd Haley and GM Scott Pioli have indicated that its business as usual at Arrowhead. Part of that business is releasing players, signing free agents and implementing the franchise tag.

Despite labor negotiations, those aspects of February football remain the same.

Beginning today, teams may begin to utilize the franchise tag. Each club has until Thursday, February 24th to designate a franchise player should they choose to do so. That’s a two week window.

In laymen’s terms, the franchise tag prevents an unrestricted free agent from hitting the open market. He must be paid 120% of his salary from the previous season or an average of the five highest paid players at his position…whichever results in the higher payday.

There is also a non-exclusive franchise tag that allows the franchised player to negotiate with other teams. In this case, the team which franchised the player would receive two first-round picks if that player signed elsewhere. Teams also have the right to match any external offer that a franchised player might receive.

While the franchise tag has become a major part of NFL free agency, it hasn’t exactly been prevalent in Kansas City.

The Chiefs haven’t franchised a player since DE Jared Allen in 2008. Allen was ultimately traded to Minnesota later that offseason for a first-round and two third-round draft picks. The Chiefs utilized Minnesota’s picks to select Branden Albert (through trade), Jamaal Charles and DaJuan Morgan.

Prior to Allen, the Chiefs designated T John Tait as a *transition player in 2004 and franchised TE Tony Gonzalez in 2002. All-Pro G Will Shields also received the franchise tag in 2000.

*A transition tag is similar to a franchise tag, but with a few differences. Transitioned players are offered contracts at 120% of their salary from the previous season or the average of the top 10 salaries at their position. Again, whichever results in the bigger payday. A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.

During Pioli’s tenure as general manager, the Chiefs have signed players to long-term contracts prior to unrestricted free agency or deemed future UFAs not worth franchising instead of using the franchise tag. With the Chiefs retooling their roster significantly over the past two seasons, the lack of a franchised player doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

Pioli did, however, trade for a franchise-tagged Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel during his first months on the job. Kansas City gave New England a second-round pick for the two players and Pioli later signed Cassel to a long-term deal.

If the franchise tag is going to make a return to Kansas City, it will do so within the next 14 days.

As the franchise clock ticks, all eyes are on Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali. The franchise tag would give the AFC sack champion a nice pay increase and guarantee that the Chiefs retain his rights. There is also a chance that the two sides come to terms on a contract extension prior to free agency, like the club did in-season with Jamaal Charles and Derrick Johnson.

Either way, it looks like the Chiefs will make an effort to keep Hali from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Pioli addressed the topic yesterday on Sports Radio 810 WHB.

"Without getting into specifics of each player, and where we're at and what we're doing with those guys...just from a philosophical standpoint, I don't think it's healthy to talk about their personal business,” Pioli said. “But I think everyone knows that those players are not only good players but they're players we like being a part, and hope to be part of our future."

The other player who Pioli was referencing was WR Dwayne Bowe. Bowe is currently under contract for 2011.

Teams can only designate one player as a franchise/transition player each season. The minimum cost of doing so last season broke down like this:

Quarterback: (franchise) $16.405 million; (transition) $14.56 million.

Defensive End: $12.398 million; $10.193 million.

Offensive Line: $10.731 million; $9.142 million.

Linebacker: $9.68 million; $8.373 million.

Cornerback: $9.566 million; $8.056 million.

Running Back: $8.156 million; $7.151 million.

Defensive Tackle: $7.003 million; $6.353 million.

Safety: $6.455 million; $6.011 million.

Tight End: $5.908 million; $5.248 million.

Kicker/Punter: $2.814 million; $2.629 million.

Here is a list of the 25 Chiefs currently without contracts for 2011.

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