February 14th, 2014 marks the first day NFL teams can tag players with the franchise designation. PFT offers a more detailed explanation of what this means:
Starting Monday, the two-week window opens for application of the franchise tag. The device, launched two decades ago with the commencement of true free agency, gives each team the ability to apply some restriction to one otherwise unrestricted free agent each year. Any player who receives the nonexclusive version of the tag may still negotiate with other teams. An offer sheet may be signed. The franchise player’s current team has seven days to match. If the current team doesn’t match, the contract becomes effective and the new team gives two first-round draft picks to the player’s former team.
In practical terms, teams can use this designation to prevent one of their key pending free agents from leaving in free agency. Teams have a two week period to apply this designation; the deadline is on March 3rd before 4:00 PM EST.
So will the Eagles make use of their franchise tag this year? It seems unlikely. The Eagles have a total of 10 players scheduled to be free agents. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are two of the biggest names from that list. The Eagles will have interest in bringing these players back, but the cost to tag a wide receiver is $11.6 million guaranteed for one year. The Eagles have plenty of cap space but that number is just too large. The Eagles will have to rely on negotiating a new contract should they want Maclin and/or Cooper to return.
Another pending free agent the Eagles will surely have interest in bringing back is veteran punter Donnie Jones. It's hard to imagine the Eagles having a tough time re-signing Jones, but let's just entertain a hypothetical. If the tag is used on Jones, he will be due $3.4 million. That would make him the highest paid punter in the league and more than triple his 2013 salary $905,500. So, this doesn't look like a realistic option either.
Even though the Eagles won't likely use the tag this year, it's still worth noting how other teams around the league operate. Key potential free agent targets for the Eagles could be tagged before they ever hit the open market. Big name players like Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Brian Orakpo, etc., might not ever make it to free agency. Without players like these available, the Eagles could have to look at other targets to fill their needs.
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