Football fans everywhere are watching what is going in Pittsburgh with running back Le’Veon Bell. To put it quite frankly, it’s a complete utter mess. The best running back in professional football as of right now still hasn’t reported to the Steelers facility and most likely won’t be playing week one when the Steelers meet the Cleveland Browns. And honestly, who can blame him?
The last two seasons the three time All-Pro running back has ran the ball a total of 582 times and having 160 catches in that span as well. For the second year in a row Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and the front office expects Bell to play on the franchise tag. While only coming to the table with 10 million in guarantees this past offseason. For a running back that’s been the best in the league and plays as a wide receiver week to week is the definition of low balling a player.
As violent of a game football is you can’t expect a player who has no question, undoubtedly earned his payday, play on the franchise tag a second year in a row. Especially when their quarterback and star wide receiver have both been compensated and he hasn’t. We also saw this offseason running back Todd Gurley get his long-term contract with the Los Angeles Rams and it came with 45 million dollars in guarantees. Just to put it into perspective, the Rams gave Gurley 45 million in guarantees and the Steelers only came to the table with 10 for Bell. If you saw a coworker who’s hasn’t done what you have, getting over 70 percent more than you, would you show up to work? I don’t think many of us would.
This isn’t the only case where the franchise tag has been a complete nuisance to a player either. Jarvis Landry is another prime example. One of the best slot receivers in the game was set to hit the open market and have a bevy of teams on the line interested in his services. The Ravens being one of them. The Dolphins didn’t really want to pay him a hefty contract, but they didn’t want him to hit free agency and let him walk away for nothing. So, they put a franchise tag on him and told teams what the price was and how many picks it would cost them for a sign and trade. They wound up receiving two picks in exchange for the should be free agent wide out sending him to Cleveland.
There were also rumors that the Redskins were going to put a tag on Kirk Cousins after the organization traded for Alex Smith. When Cousins started visiting with teams, there were rumblings that Washington might place the tender on him. And the only conclusion you can come to is, they were only doing so in attempts to see what they could get back for him after they traded for Smith. They ultimately didn’t end up going thru with it after Cousins said he would file a grievance with the league if they had.
These three instances should make most people say to themselves: “Maybe its time to do away with the franchise tag”. We don’t see anything like it in any other major sport. And with a game as violent as the sport of football, players shouldn’t be expected to play on a one-year deal when they have earned and put in the work to be compensated. One play gone wrong and their payday goes out on the window.
Earlier this week 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman came out and said we can expect a lockout when it’s time to come up with a new CBA in 2020. A lot of people covering the league including myself have said the lockout in two years isn’t going to be pretty and it’s going to be a lot worse than the last one we saw in 2010. When they signed the last CBA a lot of people were taken aback by how long the CBA was going to last. A lot changes in 10 years and a lot certainly has in the National Football League in that time.
When it comes time to sit at the round table two years from now and discuss things, expect the franchise tag to be among the many things they discuss. I just can’t see the players or their union for that matter wanting to keep the tag around when its gives too much power to the front offices and puts shackles around the players. And if they can’t get it completely off the table, it’s something that certainly needs to be modified. Front offices should only be able to put the tag on a player once and that’s it. If the organization can’t come up with a deal for a player after that year, then they hit free agency and seek a team that will give them a long-term deal. Modifying the tag or simply just doing away with it would make things a lot easier for the players. We’ll see in two years.