NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported today that the franchise tag numbers for 2013 have been tentatively set and they look to be an expensive strategy for the Detroit Lions this offseason. Here are the numbers for each position (in millions):
The Lions have a number of players heading towards free agency with the most important being defensive players. When compiling a list of the most important to keep for 2013, Cliff Avril, Louis Delmas and Chris Houston come to mind.
Cliff Avril isn’t likely to receive consideration for a second-consecutive franchise tag as his play hasn’t warranted the 120% salary increase that comes along with being tagged for a second time.
Louis Delmas has already received a lot of talk about being a possible recipient of the franchise tag but it would be prudent to consider whether he is worth the $6.798 million price tag. There is no doubt the Lions are a better defensive team but there are no guarantees that Delmas can stay healthy as he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule through his first four years in the league. Is keeping Louis Delmas off the free agent market work absorbing approximately another $5 million against the cap compared to what he costs now? I say ‘no’ but the Lions may be of another opinion.
That brings us to Chris Houston who is in the final year of a two-year, $6 million contract. Like the situation with Delmas, Houston would account for a much bigger chunk of the cap if the Lions decide to retain him via the franchise tag without coming to a long-term agreement. Houston has also missed some games while a member of the Lions but has been more dependable than Delmas. The issue with Houston is that he is probably better suited as a number two corner than a number one worthy of franchise bucks. The Lions might just have to bite the bullet as a ‘cost of doing business’, however, as the Lions don’t have a viable alternative. Remember, Eric Wright left the Lions a year ago on a 5-year, $37.5 million deal and Chris Houston is certainly a superior player.
With the salary cap expected to remain basically flat, the Lions are once again in for a difficult offseason. They were able to maneuver their way to retaining most of the players they made a priority a year ago and will have to get creative once again. That may involve some very difficult decisions, possible including deciding that using the franchise tag this year isn’t a cost-effective strategy.