20

February

Green Bay Packers Franchise Tag Primer

TE Jermichael Finley

Tagging Jermichael Finley is one option for the Green Bay Packers this offseason.

Starting today, all 32 NFL teams will have the ability to place the franchise tag on one player of their choosing. The deadline for applying said tag is Monday, April 5, eight days before free agency begins.

The underlying purpose of the franchise tag is for teams to have the option of retaining a player with an expiring contract if a long-term agreement can’t be had before free agency begins.  Unlike previous seasons, in which a franchised player would receive the average salary of the five highest paid players at his position, the NFL’s new CBA introduces a complicated formula that now controls what the number for each position will be.

For 2012, the numbers figure out as such:

QB: $14.4 million in 2012; down from $16.1 million in 2011

RB: $7.7 million in 2012; down from $9.6 million in 2011

WR: $9.4 million in 2012; down from 11.4 million in 2011

TE: $5.4 million in 2012; down from $7.3 million in 2011

OL: $9.4 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011

DE: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13 million in 2011

DT: $7.9 million in 2012; down from $12.5 million in 2011

LB: $8.8 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011

CB: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13.5 million in 2011

S: $6.2 million in 2012; down from $8.8 million in 2011

Since Ted Thompson took over as GM in 2005, the Packers have used the franchise tag just twice.

DT Corey Williams received the tag in 2006 and then was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a second-round pick, and DL Ryan Pickett got the tag in 2010 but worked out a four-year, $25 million deal shortly thereafter.

In 2012, it’s widely assumed that the Packers will be using their tag on one of three players: quarterback Matt Flynn, tight end Jermichael Finley or center Scott Wells.

Let’s quickly run down each of those options:

TE JERMICHAEL FINLEY
6-5, 247 lbs
2011: 55 catches, 767 yards, 8 touchdowns

Tagging Finley is likely the leader in the clubhouse. He turns just 25 years old at the end of March but hasn’t come close to scratching the ceiling of his football potential. Coach Mike McCarthy has also talked at length on several occasions about how much the matchup-busting tight end means to the Packers offense. Yet after just five starts in 2010 and an inconsistent 2011 season, Finley hasn’t quite sold the Packers on the idea that he has earned the kind of top-end tight end money that he’s likely asking for in negotiations. In the end, Finley is exactly the kind of player the NFL envisioned when the franchise tag came about: Young, talented and important, but difficult to retain. If the Packers aren’t confident in being able to re-sign Finley before March 13, they would be taking a huge risk by not franchising him. Letting Finley walk and then having to restart at what has become an increasingly important position doesn’t make a lot of sense with the franchise tag as an option. Finally, it’s unlikely that Finley would win an arbitration case on the WR-TE tag, as he lined up as a tight end on more snaps in 2011.

QB MATT FLYNN
6-2, 225 lbs
2011: 33 for 49, 518 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 124.8 passer rating

It is pretty easy to understand fans’ infatuation with tagging Flynn and then trading him away for picks. Flynn’s trade compensation would dwarf what the Packers would get as a comp pick for letting him walk in free agency, and there’s always a bonus in being able to control the final destination of a good football player. But there’s far more to this decision than just the compensation and destination. For starters, tagging Flynn—a backup quarterback at best on the Packers’ roster—eliminates the tag possibility for Finley or even Wells. Also, the Packers would need to trim salary immediately, as the franchise number for quarterbacks is $14.4 million and the Packers’ cap situation is somewhere in the $10-11 range right now. That kind of monetary commitment would really put stress on the way Thompson handles the cap in the present. In the end, I don’t think tagging Flynn is completely out of the picture, but there’s a lot of things that need to fall into place quickly for this to come to fruition.

C SCOTT WELLS
6-2, 300 lbs
2011: 16 starts, 2 sacks allowed, Pro Bowl selection

You could make a pretty sensible argument that Wells is the Packers’ most important free agent this offseason. He is getting up there in age (Wells will turn 32 years old next January) but 2011 was the best year of his career and the Packers have no future plans at the center position. Would that make him a viable tag candidate if the two sides were at an impasse in negotiations? It’s unlikely. The franchise number for offensive lineman is $9.4 million, and centers are rarely kept at a number that high. The Packers should play their hand on signing Wells to a manageable multi-year deal, and if Wells isn’t satisfied, he’ll hit the market. But even if he does enter free agency without a new deal, the Packers should eventually get him signed, much like they did with Chad Clifton a handful of seasons ago. Losing Wells would only create another gaping hole on the roster.

PREDICTION

The Packers work to find a common ground with Finley, but no deal is going to be reached before free agency starts looming over the negotiations. Instead of losing such a dynamic talent like Finley, the Packers franchise him at a very reasonable $5.4 million. Flynn happily walks in free agency to the highest bidder, and Thompson happily takes a compensatory pick next April. Wells gets to free agency without a new deal but eventually agrees to return to Green Bay on a three- or four-year deal.

——————

Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

——————

11 Responses to “Green Bay Packers Franchise Tag Primer”

  1. Pete Kliman says:

    I agree with everything ,but not signing Wells to more than three yrs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor 12 says:

    Unless some catastropic stuff happens with QBs in the draft,
    the total collapse of or the inability for a few teams that
    need a QB as Sea,Was,Mia,Cle,Jac and Oak,Flynn is walking and
    leaving him out of any possible extra 1st or 2nds this draft.

    I expect Wells to go elsewhere and E-DS to take over and TT
    will look for the backup Center in the draft around rd 5.

    Finley in my opinion needs to accept a deal and restructured
    as his play progresses,namely his catching.Otherwise,I’d be
    happy taking a Chase Ford in the 4-5 simply because he catches
    the ball and can grow in other areas.
    The drawing of double teams will wane quicker if he(Finley)
    doesn’t come out fast with hand improvement and not just in camp
    and that bothers me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Ron LC says:

    The center position at GB is crucial to success. EDS is not now nor ever will be a suitable starting center. Make a deal with Wells select a replacement for him long-term.

    Use Franchise on Finley. $5.4 million makes another year of evaluation affordable.

    Good-bye Matt. I hope you put this opportunity to good use and have a great career. Good luck!

    Note: Mostly like the new comment format. One thing, scrolling makes it impossible to go back na review.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor 12 says:

      I’m not saying EDS is the answer or anything but,the money
      that TT can afford in a 3 year deal can possibly hinder the
      ones coming up we need like GJ,BJ,CM3 and Rodgers.
      The one year early IMO,doesn’t just apply to the playing
      level of a player but how much you can’t afford to sink
      into him when they cross the other side of 30 and it’s
      their last contract.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Zack says:

      Rumor has it Finley could be classified as a WR. in that case it would cost like 9mil to franchise him. I agree he’s worth 5.4mil to see if he can stop dropping but not 9mil.

      Then again I would trade Finley if it meant getting an ELITE pass rusher in the draft… but only if we could get the top 1 or 2 pass rusher in the draft and again only if we could franchise him for 5.4mil not 9mil. Think there would be any takers? Haha, then again I’m sure I’m gonna get ripped for that comment. Take it easy on me people, I’m just brain storming.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Mojo says:

    Don’t know if this is possible but could the Pack resign Wells
    and Finley without franchising either. Then because they have the
    ability to franchise Flynn strike a handshake deal; lets say with
    Miami for a Miami draft pick. The intent would not to franchise
    Flynn, but to use the possibilty of such as leverage. The Packers
    could throw in a player under contract to legitimize the transaction.
    Then on draft day you might see something like the “Dolphins trade
    the ninth pick the draft to GB for GB’s 28th pick and Eric Walden”

    The beauty of this arraignment is the Pack take on none of the risk
    of franchising Flynn because they never would have. The worst thing
    that happens is the deal falls through and the Pack end up with the
    compensatory pick which is what most think they’ll get anyway. I
    don’t know if this would be considered legit but does anyone have
    any thoughts as to why this wouldn’t work? The biggest stumbling
    block would be Flynn. Since he’s an FA by agreeing to the deal,
    effectively takes himself off the market. But he might really
    like the idea of being the starter at Miami under Philbin, and if
    the Fins gave him a fair contract – go for it.

    However,this backroom dealing would not be in TT’s MO so I don’t
    see the likelihood of this coming off, but it’s fun to try and
    think of ways to get something more for Flynn without taking on
    unneccesary risk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Mark says:

      I like it. I’d like to see them immediately trade that 9th overall pick for something like picks 22 and 37 (which are held by Mike Holmgren in Cle)that point. We could then fill two holes with quality players and not have to pay out our nose in salary to whomever is selected at pick 9.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Zack says:

    Agree with all the predictions except Wells. I think we lock him up without going to FA. the packers will use their draft picks for the massive improvements necessary on defense so they won’t want to risk him going to FA and walking away. In that case they will be basically forced to use their 1st or 2nd round pick on a replacement. FA would be an option in that case but it’s a money sink and most O LINEMEN in FA are late in their career not worth what it would cost to secure them. I think Wonz has been mentioned for replacement of Wells but just because fans are thinking in that direction it doesn’t mean that the front office is. (which I don’t think they are) Anyway, just speculation not anything solid to back it up =P

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. [...] writing has been on the wall for Wells to get to free agency, and I have been under the opinion for a while now that the Packers wouldn’t get a deal done with Wells until after free agency [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Zack says:

    yeah that article came out after i posted that. =P

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0