Starting on Wednesday, February 15th, teams can begin using the franchise (or transition) tag. Each team can only place the tag on one player, and the final day to use the tag is Tuesday, March 1st before 4:00 PM ET. After that, if the team can't reach an agreement on a new contract with the player, they will hit the free agent market on March 9th.
The Cleveland Browns have five unrestricted free agents this year. The only player who even has a remote change of the tag being used on them is WR Terrelle Pryor. Nonetheless, let's take a look at how much it would cost to utilize the franchise tag each free agent:
- WR Terrelle Pryor $15.8 million
- OL Austin Pasztor - $14.4 million
- DT Stephen Paea - $13.5 million
- FS Jordan Poyer - $10.9 million
- P Britton Colquitt - $4.8 million
The figures above represent a non-exclusive franchise tag (which I will refer to as the franchise tag from here on out), which is the most commonly used tag. If the Browns slap the franchise tag on a player, the player can still negotiate with other teams. If another team signs the player to an offer sheet, Cleveland would have five days to match the offer. If they do not match the offer, the Browns are compensated nicely with two first-round draft picks. That's why teams rarely sign a player who is franchised -- nobody wants to part with two first-round picks.
Even though the Browns used the transition tag on C Alex Mack three years ago, I am not going to go over those figures, as they would be pretty similar, just at a slightly cheaper rate. The franchise tag figures are accurate under the assumption of a $1684 million cap, and the numbers are courtesy of CBS Sports.
Using the Tag on WR Terrelle Pryor
I think the Browns will use the franchise tag on Pryor if all of the following are true:
- Pryor feels he is a Top 5 wide receiver in the NFL.
- He’s interested in taking the highest bid offer in free agency.
- The Browns are worried about losing Pryor in free agency.
Fortunately, I don’t think Pryor thinks of himself as highly as a Top 5 receiver yet, and the fact that he’s made it so clear that he wants to stay in Cleveland tells me that he’s willing to negotiate a deal before free agency hits. These are some of the things I discussed in my free agent preview on Pryor the other day.
I feel Pryor’s contract could be worth $9- to $10-million per year. If Cleveland is willing to utilize a near-$16 million franchise tag for one year of Pryor’s services, they are doing themselves a disservice by over-paying him unnecessarily.
The only other way I see the Browns using the tag is as a temporary measure. If March 1 comes around but the Browns feel they are only a few minor details away from locking up Pryor, then franchising him gives them the security that they won’t lose Pryor, while still being able to finish hammering out the long-term contract.
The Browns should not use the franchise tag on anybody this year. This isn’t like 2016, where Travis Benjamin, Mitchell Schwartz, and Tashaun Gipson were all hitting the open market at the same time (and the Browns didn’t use it then). When Jamie Collins decided to re-sign early, and for rather cheap, might I add, that practically removed the thought of using the franchise tag from the equation for Cleveland.