One of the issues Joe Banner brought up in his offseason press conference was that the team wasn't even entirely sure whether the tags they used on Michael Vick and David Akers are even valid. Banner says they did so just to be safe and protect their interests. The problem is that the "franchise tag" is something that exists as part of the current collective bargaining agreement. That agreement will of course expire on March 4th. So if the CBA doesn't exist, wouldn't it stand to reason that the franchise tag doesn't exist either?
"I just don't think the tag is valid," said Jerrold Colton, agent for Akers. "We are in an unknown territory right now but I just don't think it's valid and I do believe the players association will challenge the usage of this tag. And then we'll see where all this falls down the road."
There's a few issues at work here. For one, the tag is absolutely valid at this moment. It's part of the CBA which is still in effect for a couple weeks and right there's nothing the players can do to change that. As Akers' agent says maybe something could be done "down the road." What exactly does he mean? Certainly, the NFLPA isn't going to bother challenging anything about the tag before a labor agreement is reached. That would be pointless. Since players can't be signed while there's no CBA, it really makes no difference.
Where it could become an issue is when the new CBA is finally finished. If the franchise tag exists in the new CBA, does it just carry over franchise tagged players from the previous agreement? If no tag exists, are the franchised players under the current agreement free agents? My guess is that this is something that will have to be worked out in the negotiations. NFL owners aren't going to leave this one ambiguous and they aren't going to want to let the likes of Peyton Manning hit unrestricted free agency.
Still, it's an interesting argument and frankly I would fall on the side of the tag not really meaning anything when the CBA expires. I do however, think that the owners will make sure that at least the players who were tagged in the previous CBA, remain property of their respective teams under the new agreement.