Decision time for the Green Bay Packers
This is a big week for the NFL. Not only does the scouting combine begin on February 22 in Indianapolis, but as of Monday, February 20, teams can begin applying franchise and transition tags to players.
For the Green Bay Packers, their decision on who to franchise will be perhaps the first of many interesting personnel decisions to be made in the off-season.
The franchise tag is a designation a team may apply to a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The tag binds the player to the team for one year if certain conditions are met.
Many believe the franchise decision comes down to two players: Jermichael Finley or Matt Flynn.
Straight from the NFL's collective bargaining agreement: the franchise tender for each position arises from a formula that takes the value of franchise tags for the last five years, adds them up, divides them by the total value of the salary cap for the last five years, and multiplies the resulting percentage by the salary cap for the current year.
THE SAFER BET:
Finley. The talented, but inconsistent tight end caught 55 passes for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns last season. Those are solid numbers, but many (including Finley) were disappointed by his lack of consistency. One thing to consider is age. Finley is just 24 years old, and many feel his best football is ahead of him.
If the Packers slap the franchise tag on Finley, they would owe him $5.5 million. The $5.5 million would be a significant increase over the $1.36 million Finley accounted for against the cap last season. While some players cringe at the notion of the franchise tag, I can't imagine Finley would be too disappointed with a 4 million dollar salary increase.
THE RISKY PLAY:
Flynn. The franchise value for quarterbacks is a staggering $14.41 million. Flynn counted $555,000 against the cap last season. No need to do the math on this one - the potential salary increase would be life-changing. But the Packers would only franchise Flynn if they were supremely confident he could be traded. That's the risk.
In two career starts, Flynn has impressed throwing for 731 yards and 9 touchdowns against the Patriots and Lions. That's what makes him so alluring, and dangerous. What he has done in a starting capacity has been incredible, but is a two-game sample size enough for teams to dump high draft choices in a trade with the Packers?
My feeling is that Green Bay would love to hear that multiple teams have interest in Flynn, and perhaps a bidding war would ensue. Without the franchise tag, Flynn would become an unrestricted free agent, and the Packers would not be compensated by his departure.
Scott Wells. There is a slim chance the Packers could use the franchise tag on the 31 year-old pro-bowl center. The real question with Wells is whether or not the Packers will entertain a long-term deal, or let him walk in free agency.
The window of time teams have to make franchise and tender decisions is February 20 through March 5. Stay tuned. This decision will be the first of many interesting decisions the Packers must make as they shape the team for 2012.