The NFL franchise tag window comes to a close today after opening a few weeks ago on Feb. 16. All 32 NFL teams have until before 4:00 PM EST today, Monday, March 1 to designate their franchise (or transition) players.
The big question for the Philadelphia Eagles is whether or not they will use the tag on impending free agent quarterback Sam Bradford. Last month it was reported that the Eagles don't play to tag Bradford. The franchise tag number for a quarterback in 2016 is $19.9 million. That money is entirely guaranteed so it's a huge cap hit. The transition tag costs a little less at $17.7 million. The risk of using the transition designation on a player, however, is that other teams can negotiate with the player without losing any compensation. The Eagles would be allowing another team to dictate Bradford's cost. All it takes is one team (the San Francisco 49ers with Chip Kelly?) to give him an offer out of their comfort range.
The Eagles reportedly have interest in retaining Bradford. They recently "upped their offer" in a "real push" to keep him. These terms make it seem like the ball is in Bradford's court. If he doesn't come back to Philadelphia, it won't be because the Eagles didn't try.
If the Eagles don't tag Bradford by the deadline, the next significant deadline in Monday, March 7. That's when Bradford's agent, Tom Condon, can start negotiating with other NFL teams during the legal tampering window. Then NFL free agency officially begins at 4:00 PM ET on Wednesday, March 9. At that point he'll be free to officially sign with any team.
It's been suggested Bradford has a weak market. That notion will be confirmed if he signs a team-friendly deal with the Eagels. That would also means NFL talent evaluators agree with Bradford's biggest skeptics. It's funny because a lot of Bradford's supporters might only get their wish of him returning if everyone else think he's not any good. Are you excited for the 2016 Eagles? A team that potentially consists of the quarterback no one else wanted to pay ... playing for the head coach who wasn't the team's first choice and no one else even interviewed ... who was selected by the former general manager who got moved out of personnel last year? How could you not be fired up for that.
Then again, maybe a team-friendly deal with Bradford isn't so bad for the Eagles. The team could still take a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft at some point, which seems likely, and try to groom him behind Bradford. If Bradford continues to prove he's not a franchise quarterback, the Eagles would have someone else to turn to down the road. But if the Eagles legitimately think the injury-prone Bradford is the guy and do nothing else to seriously address the position this offseason, then that's just a bad decision.
We'll see soon enough how it all plays out. Only hours remain until the 4:00 PM deadline.