February 14, 2017
Two months ago if you would have asked me if the franchise tag was a possibility for cornerback A.J. Bouye I would have told you little to none. However my opinion is starting to drift towards the possibility of utilizing the franchise tag on A.J. Bouye. Let’s take a look at the process and what the salary cap implications are of the different tags available. Houston has only used the franchise tag once in their team history since 2002, which was used on Dunta Robinson in 2009.
Timeline for Designating a Franchise/Transition Player
For the 2017 NFL league year the window for designating a franchise tag player is February 15th through March 1st. Once the tender (tag) is designated by the team, the applicable salary amount will be accounted for in the team’s salary cap figures.
Bouye will have the choice to sign the tender as soon as it is designated or no later than July 15th.
Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag
This is commonly referred to as the franchise tag. I won’t go into the calculation of the value; you can find the formula under Article 10 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Joel Corry of CBS reports that the 2017 non-exclusive tag value for cornerback (based on $168m team salary cap) will be $14.29 million dollars. Once Bouye signs the tender, the salary amount becomes fully guaranteed for skill/cap/injury for the 2017 season. Bouye would have the ability to continue negotiating with the Houston Texans on a long term contract extension to replace the one year tender/franchise tag. With the non-exclusive tag Bouye’s camp would also have the ability to negotiate with the other 31 NFL teams on a long term contract. This is commonly referred to as an “offer sheet” should Bouye agree to terms with another team. The Houston Texans would then have 5 business days to match the terms of the offer sheet. If Houston does not match the terms of the offer sheet; then the new team would send two (2) first round draft selections to the Houston Texans as compensation. Bouye could also decide not to sign any long term contract and play the 2017 season under the franchise tag.
If Bouye plays the 2017 season under the tag; Houston would have the option to apply a second franchise tag in 2018. The value of the 2018 tag would be based on the formula or 120% of the 2017 value of $17.15 million; whichever is higher. The 120% amount would likely be higher. Houston could also franchise tag Bouye one final time in 2019 at a value of 144% of the 2018 amount, $24.69 million.
Houston would also have the option to remove the franchise tag tender prior to July 15th (see Carolina in 2016 with Josh Norman) which would make A.J. Bouye an unrestricted free agent immediately.
Exclusive Franchise Tag
Houston won’t use this designation for Bouye. This designation does not allow the player to negotiate with any other team; and the salary value of this designation is higher than the non-exclusive tag.
Houston won’t use this designation either for Bouye. This designation has a lower salary value when compared to the non-exclusive tag value, but does not return any draft compensation if the player signs an offer sheet from another team. Teams with large amounts of salary cap space may be able to structure the contract in a way that would be difficult for Houston to match.
Why Use the Franchise Tag
If the Texans feel strongly enough that Bouye is a core player for the future then the franchise tag buys the team an additional 4 months of negotiating time to work out a long term contract. Bouye would likely sign the tender quickly and work through contract negotiations; instead of not signing resulting in a hold out.
I laid out a conservative contract projection for A.J. Bouye offering $22 million in guaranteed money. Compare that to the value of two years on the franchise tag at $31 million; explains why I consider the projection conservative. The long term contract offers the player more stability and ensures the guaranteed money is provided. If the player sustains a major injury while playing on the franchise tag, it could substantially lower his value for future contract negotiations.