While the NFL office and the NFLPA (players’ union), continue to negotiate over the final numbers, all 32 teams are in a holding pattern, awaiting the 2012 figures that control the way they go about their business. It has put a strain on several processes that have already taken place and the deadlines have come and gone. The announcement of the 2012 salary cap figures should come Friday, or Monday at the latest.
The franchise tag is used by clubs to protect a coveted player on their roster. The tag period started February 20 and ended March 5. Those players tagged find themselves in limbo while the NFL organizations find themselves in a very strange predicament as well. Several sources believe the cap will be close if not the same as last year, in the neighborhood of $120 million. Folks around the league are in a fog on the possibility of the total numbers, and some worried because it is taking too long to get this deal worked out. A few teams are starting to restructure big contracts to open cap room, which makes for good football business, when it comes to positioning the franchise for a healthy outlook and their ability to sign free agents, which may include their own unrestricted free agents.
While no one has spelled out the true reason for the holdup, once the final cap numbers are released, each team will have the true value of the tags. Again, the fact of the matter is the franchise tags have not officially been extended to players (see list below). With no salary cap, the amount can’t be determined because the number is based on a percentage of the unadjusted salary cap. Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson and a few others haven’t been able to sign the franchise tag, and can’t until the cap numbers are set, and the clubs know the spending limit for the year.
Franchised tagged players in limbo: New York Giants P Steve Weatherford; Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe; New England Patriots WR Wes Welker; Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Spencer; Tennessee Titans S Michael Griffin; Detroit Lions DE Cliff Avril; Jacksonville Jaguars PK Josh Scobee; New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees; Cincinnati Bengals PK Mike Nugent; Washington Redskins TE Fred Davis; Arizona Cardinals DE Calais Campbell; Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice; San Francisco 49ers S Dashon Goldson; Atlanta Falcons DC Brent Grimes; Oakland Raiders S Tyvon Branch; Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson; Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte; Denver Broncos PK Matt Prater; Tampa Bay Buccaneers PK Connor Barth.
Other players were signed to long-term deals: Houston Texans RB Adrian Foster (5 years, $43.5 million/$20.75 guaranteed); Buffalo Bills WR Stevie Johnson (5 years, $36.25 million/$19.5 guaranteed); Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (4 years, $31 million); San Francisco 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks; Philadelphia Eagles DT Cullen Jenkins (restructured contract to avoid bonus March 5).
The new league year, along with free agency, starts next Tuesday, March 13, and while both sides are working to get the right figures so business moves smooth into 2012, the pressure is on to close the door, or all hell is going to break loose.