The franchise tag is the NFL’s necessary evil. Players are loathe to lose financial security, even if it means getting paid a heckuva lot for one season. Teams hate it, because using the franchise tag is usually a desperation move to keep a player on the team; they also lose financial flexibility and are uncertain of the player’s future status. But sometimes it is beneficial, especially since it allows teams to extend the amount of time that they have to negotiate with a player (the New England Patriots are an example of one team that has done this with a great degree of success).
When it comes to keeping a top quarterback, the franchise tag makes a lot of sense if a long-term deal cannot be reached. It is far too risky to potentially let your franchise QB hit the open market, because you could be left without the centerpiece of your team. Worst of all, he could even get picked up by a division rival (it’s not inconceivable for the Minnesota Vikings to sign Jay Cutler if Cutler were to somehow hit the free agent waters). Franchising a QB also allows the negotiation period to extend, since both sides would obviously prefer to get a long-term deal done.
So the Chicago Bears could very well slap Jay Cutler with the franchise tag during the offseason, and Cutler seems perfectly cool with it. He said on his radio show on ESPN 1000, via ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright, “I’m not gonna take anything personally. If they want to franchise me, I’m gonna feel good about the situation we’re in. We’re gonna be in our second year of the offense with these guys. We’re gonna be better. I’m gonna be better. So it’s not personal. It’s business.”
Since Cutler would make a cool $16.2 million, it’s no surprise to hear that he would be fine with being tagged. The question is, would the Bears be cool with it? I highly doubt it, and the franchise tag on Cutler would be a last resort. Hopefully the Bears and Cutler can swing a deal before it comes to that, because $16.2 million is an awful lot of money. Also, it’s not a good idea to have any doubts about the long-term security of your franchise QB.
In fact, it would have been much more ideal for the Bears to have locked up Cutler before then, but maybe they had doubts about his ability to get the job done, especially in a new offense. And even though Marc Trestman has really helped him play more efficiently, there are still a few injury concerns. The ideal situation, though, is still to have both sides agree to a long-term deal, with the franchise tag ideally used to extend the negotiation period.