Teams can start franchising players on Monday. The Green Bay Packers are in an interesting situation, with three players who they at least have to consider tagging.
Those players are tight end Jermichael Finley, center Scott Wells and quarterback Matt Flynn. Finley is the most likely candidate to get the franchise tag, but we’d be surprised if the team was in a rush to apply it. It would make more sense to wait until the eve of free agency to see if they can re-sign any of the players we mentioned.
For example, if the Packers can strike a deal with Finley prior to free agency, they can use the tag on Wells. If they tag Finley right away, they can’t turn around and use it on another player even if they agree on a long-term deal with the tight end before free agency starts. On top of that, there’s no urgency to work on a long-term deal with Finley because the team already has him locked up for at least the 2012 season because of the franchise tag.
Tagging Finley would cost the Packers $5.4 million in 2012.
The problem with tagging Wells is the franchise tag for offensive linemen is the same regardless of position — $9.4 million. That’s too much to pay for a center and is skewed because left tackles are typically paid much more than any other offensive linemen. The highest-paid center in the NFL makes $7 million a season. So, if the Packers ended up applying the tag to Wells, it would only be if they know they can come to an agreement for a long-term deal at a smaller annual salary.
As for Flynn, he’s a backup and tagging him would cost the Packers $16.1 million for one year. The only way the team could tag Flynn is if they trade him. They won’t be able to fit that number under their salary cap and it’s more in annual salary than Aaron Rodgers makes. Flynn is clearly one of the most attractive free agents on the market and could net the team a first or second-round draft choice. The Cardinals gave up a second-round pick and starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Eagles backup quarterback Kevin Kolb last offseason.
It would behoove the Packers to get both Finley and Wells re-signed in order to tag Flynn so they can trade him, but that will be awfully tough.
In all likelihood, the Packers will lose Flynn without compensation and tag Finley. If the team can’t come to an agreement with Wells prior to free agency, he may end up elsewhere as well.