NFL Franchise Tag window now open: Seahawks will weigh options

Otto Greule Jr

Starting today (Monday, February 17th) NFL teams have now entered into a two-week period of time where they can place franchise tags on impending free agents. They have until March 3rd to do this.

Franchise Tags:

The salary cap figures by position are based on the average five-year cap percentage for tags at each position. Because the salary cap figure for 2014 has not yet been announced, the franchise tag numbers are still estimates, but NFL.com's Albert Breer estimated some of the cap numbers by position for 2014. I believe this is assuming an NFL Salary Cap somewhere around $128M:

Quarterback - $16.2 million
Defensive end - $12.6 million
Wide receiver - $11.6 million
Cornerback - $11.3 million
Offensive lineman - $11.2 million
Linebacker - $11 million
Defensive tackle - $9.2 million
Running back - $9.1 million
Safety - $8.1 million
Tight end - $6.8 million
Kicker/punter - $3.4 million

As former agent Joel Corry explains, there are two types of franchise tags, Exclusive and Non-Exclusive.

With the non-exclusive franchise tag, a player must be offered a one-year contract based on the average of the non-exclusive franchise numbers at his position over the last five years and their percentage of the current year's salary cap or 120 percent of his prior year's salary (usually salary cap number), whichever is greater. This tag allows the player to negotiate with other NFL teams but if he signs an offer sheet with another club, his team has five days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, his team will receive two first-round picks as compensation from the signing team.

Under the exclusive franchise tag, a player will receive a one-year offer from his team that is the greater of the average of the top five salaries at his position once the restricted free-agent signing period has ended (May 2) or 120 percent of his prior year's salary. A player cannot negotiate with other teams with the exclusive franchise tag.

Whether it's exclusive or non-exclusive, if a player gets slapped with a franchise tag, it's almost a given that they'll stick with that team for the year. No club is going to give up two first round picks for almost anyone, save for maybe an elite quarterback.

The Seahawks

The Seahawks have three 'marquee' free agent players that could potentially be the targets of a franchise tag on: DT/DE Michael Bennett, WR Golden Tate, and K Steven Hauschka.

Slapping the tag on Tate would mean the Hawks would be paying him ~$11.6M in 2014. This isn't happening, considering Percy Harvin's cap hit in '14 is over $13M. That's just way too much money to allocate to that position. Keeping Bennett around for a year on a franchise tag would cost the team anywhere from $9.2M to $12.6M, depending on whether he's designated a defensive end or tackle (I am guessing he'll be considered a defensive end, but to be honest I'm not sure how they determine that considering Bennett takes most snaps from 3-technique).

I just don't really see the Bennett-tag scenario happening either. I think the Hawks will look to sign Bennett to a three-year deal and they'll just have to live with it if another team offers Michael some huge deal. Considering Bennett got an extremely tepid market last year even after playing very well in Tampa Bay last season (hence why he chose to sign a one-year deal with Seattle), I think the Seahawks hope a reasonable market-rate deal that rewards him with guaranteed money will tempt Bennett back. The Hawks gave Chris Clemons a three-year, $21M deal with $10M guaranteed when he was 30 years old, so that might be a benchmark. Perhaps adding a few million to the guaranteed number will keep Bennett in town.

As for Hauschka, if he is slapped with the franchise tag, he'd earn about ~3.4M in salary, which would make him the highest paid kicker in the NFL for 2014 (as the numbers stand now). I don't really see this happening, but Hauschka's kicking was nails all year long and Pete Carroll, maybe more than most NFL coaches, values Special Teams. We shall see.

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