Can you hear it? Huh? It's the collective groan from Detroit, Minnesota, and Kansas City. By applying the franchise tag to Matt Cassel, he is, for all intents and purposes, off the market and no longer a free agent. Now before you start screaming, "OMG!! OMG!! OMG!!, Brady's out for the season!", relax, take a deep breath, and think about your happy place. With all of this snow, my happy place has something to do with a beach and people bringing me umbrella drinks every 15 minutes, but let's move on...
The term also has a separate contractual definition within the National Football League. A team can designate a single player as its franchise player and therefore restrict the player from entering free agency. In return, the team must pay the player a premium salary. The NFL requires that a franchise player be paid at least the average of the top 5 players in the league at his position, or 120% of his previous year's salary, whichever is greater. The franchise player status lasts for only 1 year and can be renewed, but if not renewed the player is granted unrestricted free agency.
Back to Brady... Franchising Cassel doesn't necessarily mean Brady is out for the season...again. With roughly three months until the start of OTAs, the Patriots need to invoke their insurance policy and hang onto the QB who led them to an 11-5 season and a gnat's hair away from a division championship. Insurance, that's what I'll keep telling myself.
Sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that the Patriots will use a franchise tag on Cassel that will give the team two options: trade him if all goes well with Tom Brady's rehabilitation from a knee injury or keep him because all is not well with Brady.
The Patriots’ decision to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel today – on the first possible day – creates a larger negotiating window with teams that might be interested in acquiring Cassel in a trade.
The Patriots had until Feb. 19 to make the decision.
The Patriots could also give Cassel’s representatives permission to speak with interested teams about a possible contract – a key piece because any trade for Cassel would have to include a long-term contract extension.
With those pieces needed to fall into place – working out trade compensation, as well as Cassel’s representatives working out a new deal – the team might be thinking that "the more time, the better."
It also allows more time for a potential market for Cassel to take shape.
This is the time of year when most clubs are finalizing their free-agent and offseason strategy, the calm before the storm. The official start of free agency is Feb. 27.
The move means the quarterback remains a free agent, but the Patriots can match any offer made by another team or allow him to sign with that team in exchange for two first-round draft picks.
If and when he signs the one-year franchise tag designation, worth $14.65 million for 2009, he will be under contract to the Patriots, who could keep him or trade him.
$14.65 million... spot on ya, mate. Good for you, Matt.