Earlier this evening, Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe reported that NFL teams will have the option to place the franchise tag on its impending free agents, as the franchise tag falls under the current labor deal set to expire in March. Teams will be given a two week window beginning February 10th to apply the tag.
There has been some discrepancy on whether the tags could be used this year and applied to the 2011 season, mostly from the union side.
But NFL senior vice president and general counsel Peter Rucco, who is one of the league's in-house CBA wonks, said today that the league has told teams they can apply the tags in a 14-day window beginning Feb. 10.
"The CBA hasn't expired and the CBA has the right to franchise players so we are telling clubs that you have the right to franchise players and then depending on what the new agreement says, that will take into account," Rucco said. "Neither party is proposing to get rid of the franchise tag. But as far as we're concerned, clubs have the right to tag players, the agreement continues with the same terms and conditions that it has been; it isn't expiring until March 4 and the window to franchise players is 14 days. From our standpoint, you have every right to franchise players."
So essentially, while the Union has been trying to put the status of the tag up in question, it clearly falls under the current CBA. However there's no guarantee that the tag will exist under the next labor agreement. Still, that probably will not prevent the Patriots from placing the tag on one of their own. Later in his report, Bedard also stated that it's "likely" the Patriots will place the franchise tag on All-Pro guard Logan Mankins.
The league's decision on this matter will likely have a huge impact on Patriots guard Logan Mankins, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. The Patriots will likely tag Mankins and then either work out a contract extension when a new CBA is in place, or let him play the reason for the roughly $10 million an offensive lineman would earn under a tag.
There's no word out of Mankins' camp yet, but I assume he won't be thrilled about this news. Nonetheless, it can't be all too surprising to him. It was never likely that the Patriots would simply let him walk. When Mankins had returned from his holdout sooner than expected, some felt that the underlying reason could have been a guarantee from the Patriots side that the tag wouldn't be place on him. Apparently, that was not the case.
Hopefully, if all goes well, the Patriots will be able to work out an extension with Mankins similar to what they did with Vince Wilfork a year ago. If they can't, there's always the possibility of another ugly situation come this spring/summer.