Who Should Get the Oakland Raiders Franchise Tag?

John Doublin – Feb 13, 2013

On February 18th, NFL teams will be allowed to apply the "Franchise Tag" to players who are slated to become free agents, but who are unlikely to re-sign to long-term deals. At the moment, the Oakland Raiders are still in salary cap jail, and may not be able to afford to tag anyone, but it's something they still need to consider.

There are two types of Franchise Tags under the newest collective bargaining agreement. The exclusive tag, and the "transition" tag. The difference being the exclusive tag is applied to players who will be unrestricted free agents and have at least four years of NFL experience, whereas the transition tag is for players with less than four years experience and will be restricted free agents.

This article will deal only with players who are unrestricted free agents, with at least four years in the league, and are eligible for the exclusive-rights version of the tag.

The Franchise Tag essentially guarantees a given player the average salary of the five highest paid players at their position. It also ensures that other teams can't steal them away by out-bidding the Raiders, without Oakland having a chance to counter-offer. However, it's predicated on three, critical factors:

  1. The player must sign the "Franchise Tender offer," and be willing to take just a one-year deal.
  2. The team must have the salary cap room to pay the high price for keeping the player.
  3. The team must be committed to that player for the upcoming season.

If those three criteria can be met, (there's no indication that Oakland can achieve the cap space) utilizing the Franchise Tags could be a means to hold onto a player they like, and negotiate a more cap-friendly contract in the near future. This is what they did with Tyvon Branch last season.

So, who are the players the Raiders should conisder for the Franchise tags?


NOTE: This article is not intended to suggest the following players are top five at their position, just that they are the best players Oakland has who would qualify for the franchise tag. 

Desmond Bryant played outstanding in relief of the injured Richard Seymour. As a "3-technique" defensive tackle, he creates a lot of penetration and disruption in the opponents' back fields.

There is also the matter of his versatility. Bryant is not only capable of being great as a tackle in the 4-3, but he'd be an IDEAL "5-technique" defensive end in the 3-4.

The franchise tag salary for a player at Bryant's position is $8.306 million. That's a big number, but the Raiders may feel Bryant is worth it.

Philip Wheeler came to Oakland as an unrestricted free agent from the Colts. He led the team in tackles, called the plays in the defensive huddle, and proved to be a dramatic upgrade over the one-dimensional Kamerion Wimbley.

Wheeler is a great cover linebacker, is solid against the run, and has the athleticism to play inside or outside in a 3-4 scheme, should the Raiders make that switch.

The tag salary for outside linebackers is $9.455 million. Again, a huge number, but it could be well worth it to keep a player like Wheeler.

Matt Shaughnessy came back after a season-ending injury in 2011 to have a decent year. Although he didn't pile up a bunch of sacks or tackles, he held the edge of the defense, slowed the opponent's running game, and did manage to apply some pressure on the quarterback.

That said, he's a relatively limited player. Shaughnessy has the potential to be a great defensive end in a 4-3, ala Jared Allen, but he lacks versatility. He is too small to play inside in the 4-3 or on the end of a 3-4, and he's nowhere close to athletic enough to play standing up as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. Shaughnessy is a 4-3 guy.

The franchise salary for defensive ends is, $10.984 million. That's a ton of cash for a guy that would force the team to commit to a 4-3 defense exclusively.

/articleimages/adams-phillip-2.jpgPhilip Adams is a bit of a stretch on this list. He is by no means a top five, or even a top 10 player at his position, but he came on strong toward the end of last year and is better than either of the two corner backs currently on the roster, (Chimdi Chekwa and Coye Francies).

Adams started slow, but began to show that he belongs in the NFL as he grabbed two interceptions, and served as a stop-gap return man in 2012. Another year in the Jason Tarver defense could allow Adams to really shine.

The franchise salary for a corner back is $10.668 million. Again, that's a lot of money for a player of Adams' abilities, but Oakland may not have a choice...they need corner backs in the worst way.

In the end, none of the players on this list are top five at their position, and wouldn't warrant a franchise tag on most other teams. Unfortunately however, Oakland has just 37 players under contract for the 2013 NFL Season. This means they need to sign at least 16 more players, just to complete the 53 man active roster...and this does not include the eight-man practice squad.

The Raiders need players, and the men on this list are just the four best players of the team's 30 players who are scheduled to be free agents, (five restricted, 17 unrestricted, and seven exclusive rights).

So...should the Raiders franchise these players? Maybe, maybe not. But, the fact remains that Oakland's roster is barron and needs quality players. These four guys are the best potential free agents the team has right now, and are the most worthy of being franchised at the moment.

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