Yesterday, we learned that the Cleveland Browns placed the franchise tag on kicker Phil Dawson. The use of the franchise tag might be confusing to fans in Cleveland because it is the first time the team has used it since returning to the league in 1999. You might laugh and say, "why did we use it on a kicker" when it is typically used for players that are the caliber of Peyton Manning (the Colts used it on him)?
The answer is simple: you use the tag on a player who you really want to retain but legitimately feel you might lose if they hit free agency. Can you think of any players that fit that billing in Cleveland? Now, I could have thought of one example for the Cavaliers last year, but they don't have the tag in basketball; we're talking about football and the Browns here. The truth is that Dawson is the first player "deserving" of the tag, and that is really all it comes down to. The player's position is really beside the point.
Based on the definition of the "Franchise Tag," Dawson will make at least the average of the top five salaried kickers in the NFL in 2011. According to Adam Schefter, that is about $3.25 million. Dawson reportedly made $1 million last season. The raise might seem steep, but if he does end up making that amount, it only counts toward the cap in 2011. The Browns have not committed anything else to future years, and they also have exclusive rights to Dawson until 2012; that is, either Dawson plays for the Browns in 2011, or he has to sit out of football (barring a trade). Whether this makes Dawson happy is up to him: he might make a lot in one year, but he still did not get the long-term contract, at least not yet, and/or the opportunity to potentially play for another team.
There might be just one little catch though: the franchise tag is part of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA). You know -- the same agreement that is set to expire on March 4. When you think about it, upon the CBA expiring, the franchise tag technically does not exist any more.
This will surely be something that will have to be resolved in the new CBA. Owners probably want to keep the tag, but the players do not. Let's say an agreement is reached that players can no longer be franchised. What happens to the players who were franchised before the agreement expired? There is no way the owners are going to allow all of their prized possessions become unrestricted free agents. My guess is that if the franchise tag is removed in the new agreement, there will be an asterisk that allows any franchised-players from before the agreement to still hold that tag for the 2011 season. Still, the situation is something to keep an eye on. While we think Dawson is franchised, who knows what will happen upon a new agreement.