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Players will hate it, but tagging them twice makes good business sense


The average fan scratches his head in amazement when he hears a NFL player complain about a franchise tag, especially when they hear it's worth millions of dollars and guaranteed if the player signs the franchise tender. Here are a few examples of why the players are frustrated when they are tagged.

Running backs

Right now, Ray Rice of the Ravens and Matt Forte of the Bears are tagged and going nowhere in 2012 -- or 2013, for that matter, if their clubs so desire. Their franchise-tag number is $7.7 million, and if tagged again next season, it will be 120 percent of their 2012 salary, which equates to $9.24 million. That equates to $16.94 million guaranteed during the next two seasons, which doesn't sound bad on the surface.

Here are the issues that are in play for the two running backs.

1. Forte will be 27 years old this season and 29 before he would see free agency, Rice is 25 and would be looking for a long-term deal when he turns 27. Age will be a factor for both backs.

2. Injuries in the next two years could end all hope of a long-term deal.

3. The deal signed by Marshawn Lynch that was announced Monday is troubling to the two backs because Lynch has $18 million guaranteed, which is more than Forte and Rice will get if they get franchised for the next two seasons. Some would argue that Rice and Forte deserve significantly more money than Lynch, but the clubs will look at Lynch's age and production and possibly not see it that way.

Let's compare the three running backs:

Name Age Years in NFL Rushing stats Receiving stats Totals
Marshawn Lynch 26 5 1,137 carries,
4,542 yards; 35 TD
143 catches,
1,020 yards; 2 TD
1,280 touches,
5,562 yards; 37 TD
Ray Rice 25 4 959 carries,
4,377 yds; 24 TD
250 catches,
2,235 yds; 5 TD
1,209 touches,
6,612 yds; 29 TD
Matt Forte 27 4 1,014 carries,
4,233 yds; 21 TD
223 catches,
1,985 yds; 8 TD
1,237 touches,
6,218 yds; 29 TD

Lynch is a year younger than Forte and has 14 more rushing touchdowns than him on 100 more carries. Lynch has eight more total touchdowns than Rice on only 71 more touches.

The point is: Both running backs might have to settle for a deal like Lynch just signed with the Seahawks (four years, $32 million with $18M guaranteed). Of course, right now, neither back would sign a Lynch deal; they think something closer to Adrian Peterson's deal ($14.2 million per year) is what they deserve.

When Maurice Jones-Drew, the reigning NFL rushing champion, has to settle for $7.6 million per year, you know the market has changed for running backs. DeAngelo Williams averages $8.6 million, which many think is too rich, so there isn't a lot of leverage for Rice or Forte to even think about Adrian Peterson money or anything close to it.

Like it or not, the franchised running backs' demands have got to be a lot closer to the Lynch deal, or they will play on a franchise tag for two years.

Name Contract average
Troy Polamalu $9.867 million
Eric Berry $8.333 million
Michael Huff $8.000 million
Eric Weddle $8.000 million
Adrian Wilson $7.937 million
Nick Collins $7.600 million
Antrel Rolle $7.400 million
Quintin Mikell $6.750 million
Kerry Rhodes $6.700 million
Antoine Bethea $6.500 million


If I had a quality safety like Tyvon Branch (Oakland) or Dashon Goldson (San Francisco), they would get franchise tags without hesitation at $6.2 million.

A tag again next season at $7.44 million (120 percent of 2012), and I shall have captured two of the better safeties for a two-year average of $6.82 million.

Look at the contract averages of the highest-paid safeties in the league right now, and appreciate what a bargain these two safeties really are and why it's good business for the clubs and frustrating for the players.

Both franchise-tagged safeties probably believe they deserve the Eric Weddle deal, which gave him $19 million in the first two years, but the Raiders and 49ers would get their safeties for $13.64 million in the same two years (a savings of $5.36 million) and can release the player in 2013 if he is injured or his level of play falls off.

Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.

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