When NFL teams yank a free agent off the market by tagging him as their franchise player, they make what amounts to a financial trade-off. Without having to sign the player to a long-term contract or expose him to the open market, the organization can just about ensure that they will have that player on their roster for the upcoming season.
On the other hand, there's a tradeoff: namely, a boatload of cash. Franchise players get a salary equivalent to that of the average compensation of the top five players at their position or 120 percent of their previous salary, whichever is greater. That can be a pretty hefty raise. Michael Vick made about $4.5 million in 2010, but after receiving the exclusive rights franchise tag from the Philadelphia Eagles his 2011 compensation could hit $20 million -- guaranteed the moment he signs his tender.
We know that teams place the franchise tag on players for a variety of reasons, like gaining leverage in negotiating a potential long-term contract or ensuring the presence of a stopgap while a younger player develops. The uncertain future of the league's contractual system also plays a unique role this offseason. Even with all those options, there were still some curious choices for franchise tags this year. While nobody doubts the choice by the Indianapolis Colts to lock up Peyton Manning, we're going to examine some of those borderline choices by teams. We know they're paying top-five money, but are they really locking up top-five talent?
Michael Vick, Eagles
There were times in 2010 when Vick looked like one of the five best players in NFL history, let alone a top-five quarterback. And Andy Reid might have been run out of town if he had let Vick leave in free agency without acquiring any compensation in return. But when it comes to playing as a top-five quarterback in 2011, the odds -- and the numbers -- are against Vick.