By John Boyle
Monday begins the two-week period in which NFL teams can use the franchise tag. That means between now and March 3, the Seahawks (and every other team) can assure the return of any one free agent by placing the franchise tag on that player. The question now is whether or not the Seahawks use the tag, something they’ve only done once under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, placing it on kicker Olindo Mare in 2010.
For a quick reminder, the franchise tag is essentially a one-year deal based on the average salaries of the five highest paid players at a give position. It’s more complex than that, and if you want to read more about it, here’s a good breakdown from CBSSports.com, but the short version is that a team will pay a lot of money to keep a player around for one year, and that player, who would rather get a big multi-year deal with a good chunk of guaranteed money, isn’t likely to be too happy about the franchise tag. In other words, the franchise tag isn’t usually an ideal situation for either player or team, but sometimes teams feel the need to use it to keep an important player around when the two sides can’t agree to a long-term deal (Walter Jones might ring a bell for Seahawks fans).
Of the Seahawks free agents, the two who are most important to keep are defensive lineman Michael Bennett and receiver Golden Tate. The official franchise numbers won’t be released until later, but the above mentioned CBS Sports article estimates the tag for a receiver would be $11.539 million, while the number for a defense end is $12.475 million and $9.182 million for a defensive tackle. I list both defensive line numbers because I’m honestly not sure how Bennett would be classified if he were to be franchised. He’s usually listed as an end, and spent most of his time there in Tampa Bay before this season, but Bennett played both as an end and as an interior pass rusher this season, and as the season went on, played more extensively inside than out.
Either way, it’s hard to see the Seahawks franchising Bennett at either number, and both they and he would certainly prefer it if a long-term deal could get done to keep him around longer (and from Bennett’s standpoint, guarantee more money). The franchise tag seems even less likely for Tate, who while very productive this past season as a receiver and punt returner, wouldn’t be worth more than $11 million to a team that already has a ton of money tied up in Percy Harvin.
I’m of the belief that both Tate and Bennett will be back, but I don’t see either returning under the franchise tag.
So does that mean the Seahawks won’t use the tag? Not necessarily. As was the case in 2010, the one position it could happen is at kicker, with Steven Hauschka set to become an unrestricted free agent. The projected number for a kicker is $3.383 million, a big sum for that position to be sure, but not necessarily a prohibitively high number if it means keeping one of the league’s most accurate kickers. The Seahawks would rather keep Hauschka around at a lower average salary, but just might be willing to pay the franchise number if it’s the only way to keep him.