Prior to today’s 4 p.m. ET deadline to sign franchised players to long-term deals, there was a nearly dead even split since 2008 between franchised players who have signed long-term deals, and those who have been forced to play under the franchise tag (24 of the 46 signed long-term deals, according to Albert Breer).
And that trend is still in tact.
There were 21 players tagged in March, and after Matt Forte, Ray Rice, and Josh Scobee reached agreements today, the total of long-term deals for the 2012 franchise period ends at 12. Forte’s deal is the most significant commitment, followed closely by Rice’s robbery in Baltimore. Forte finally received the financial security he so desperately craved after a dispute that lasted over a year, and the tension was beginning to seriously strain the relationship between the 26-year-old running back and Bears management.
Scobee’s deal is worth $13.8 million over four years, and it proves that kickers are still people. Between franchising a kicker and drafting a punter, the Jaguars are really cornering a market of some kind this offseason. We’re just not sure what market, and if that market will still exist in Jacksonville a few years from now since the Jaguars are still one of the least valuable teams in a league filled with very valuable teams.
But that’s a depressing topic for another day. For now, let’s turn our dire thoughts to another list. If only three franchised players signed long-term deals today, then what the hell happened with the rest of them? What’s their future outlook now in their current locations? And why do they hate you?
Those question and more (actually, probably less, not more), are answered below in our rundown of the notable franchised players who will now be forced to play under their tag and a fully guaranteed one-year deal. Man, their life blows.
Wes Welker: Talks were beyond dead before this day even started. They didn’t even exist, according to CSN New England’s Tom Curran. The major hurdle was value, and Welker’s value as a slot receiver compared to the other far more sexy wide receivers, according to Adam Schefter:
“It doesn’t look like there will be a long-term deal for Wes Welker. I don’t think he expects one, I don’t think the Patriots expect one. That doesn’t prevent the two sides from revisiting the topic today, as they will. But it will not be easy to get that deal done.
“Wes Welker is a slot receiver, and he wants to be paid like one of the top receivers in the game, which he has been. But a slot receiver typically doesn’t make as much money as a Calvin Johnson or a Larry Fitzgerald, and that seems to be where these talks are bogged down slightly.”
Welker seemed resigned to his fate after he committed to his franchise tag early.
But now the path to free agency is firmly in place, because if Welker’s production remains high (and there’s no reason to think a healthy Welker won’t produce elite numbers again after a season when he had 122 receptions for 1,569 yards), then he’s established the foundation for a massive raise.
He can be franchised again, but if the Patriots choose that route then he’ll be entitled to a 120 percent wage increase that’s fully guaranteed, which will cost $11 million. Despite his high-end numbers, that’s a scary price for a wide receiver who will turn 32, and has already sustained and rehabbed a major knee injury in his career.
This is a fickle position for production once careers creep towards the mid 30s, with well-documented cases of an abrupt drop off (Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson/Ochocinco). When this contract situation is combined with the new presence of Brandon Lloyd and the quick emergence of Rob Gronkowski through his two seasons, the likelihood that we’re about to watch Welker’s last season in New England increases dramatically.
He’ll become expensive and expendable, two contract adjectives that lead to an exit that’s so very Belichickian.
Cliff Avril: He’s pissed, and he’s probably not reporting to training camp on time. For Avril, the lack of a long-term deal is a sign of apathy towards him from the organization, and it indicates that he’s not one of the Lions’ top guys right now in terms of getting a deal done.
This came down to the final hours/seconds/nano seconds, but after he recorded a career-high 11 sacks last year and established himself as a vital member of Detroit’s young and emerging pass rush alongside Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, Avril knew he needed to cash in now.
And cashing in wasn’t a three-year contract worth $30 million and $20 million guaranteed, which is the last deal the Lions offered him, according to Albert Breer. He’ll now make $10.6 million while playing under the franchise tag.
Dwayne Bowe: Similar to Welker, there was never much of a realistic push for a long-term deal here either. With Jonathan Baldwin (a first-round pick in 2011) aboard and ready to emerge during his first full season, and with the Chiefs one of the few teams still centered around the run and a healthy Jamaal Charles, committing to a wide receiver wasn’t a priority. The tag will pay him $9.515 million.
Dashon Goldson: At $6.2 million, the franchise tender price tag for safeties was reasonable, and left the 49ers with little motivation to pay for a longer commitment. Goldson finished among a group of defensive backs tied for second in the league with six interceptions in 2011, and he now has 11 over just the past three seasons.
If he comes close to duplicating that again this season, Goldson will get his pay day. And it’ll be real, and spectacular.
Brent Grimes: The Falcons were simply up too tight against the cap, with only about $2.8 million to work with this year. Signing anyone to anything was pretty much impossible, and that includes Grimes, even though a long-term deal may have reduced his cap hit, but only minimally. He’ll get paid $10.28 million this year under the tag.
Fred Davis: He’s only 26 years old, and he finished just four yards shy of 800 receiving yards last year despite missing four games due to a drug suspension. That’s are normally a feat of strength that would earn a tight end the contractual commitment he craves, but it’s that suspension that’s almost surely holding him back.
In this modern age of weed eating and otherwise sane players running into parked cars and revealing concealed weapons during traffic disputes, front offices have trust issues when dealing with players who have repeatedly violated the league’s substance abuse policy.