NFL teams can start applying the franchise tag to players today as a way of ensuring they don’t hit the free agent market. While teams like the Lions may go the entire day without slapping the franchise tag on a player they want to make sure is retained, it doesn’t mean that they won’t use it at some point. The tag can be applied anytime between now and March 5.
Defensive end Cliff Avril is the player most likely to get hit with the tag if the Lions and there has been a lot of talk about that scenario in the last few days. Both sides have indicated an interest in staying together but the franchise tag is an issue that could impede progress in a new deal.
Avril has made recent comments that indicates he would be disappointed if the Lions used the franchise tag. Even if the Lions did so as a way to ensure they retained exclusivity in negotiations, they risk alienating their target. Avril didn’t rule out a holdout instead of signing the franchise tag tender.
Still, the Lions will have to consider using the tag. The $10.6 million dollar one-year deal the tag would give Avril if he played under it may not be far off what Avril may be able to command on the free agent market. If the Lions are as committed to retaining Avril as they’ve indicated then they
It remains to be seen how much of the Avril speculation saga is posturing and how much of it is true drama. It’s probably somewhere in the middle.
The only other franchise tag candidate on the Lions is Stephen Tulloch although that is very unlikely. Applying the franchise tag on Stephen Tulloch would cost the Lions $8.8 million if he played next season under the terms of that tender. It isn’t likely the Lions can afford that risk given their current financial status in regards to the salary cap.
If I had to guess I’d say that the Lions hold off on franchising Avril until it stand as the only possibility of guaranteeing his return. Expect negotiations to heat up in hopes of reaching a deal prior to the franchise tag deadline on March 5.