Franchise tags, running backs and Marshawn Lynch
Ray Rice isn't going anywhere.
That was the message from Baltimore's brain trust this week. It became clear that the Ravens' running back will be back with the team with either a long-term deal or the franchise tag.
Ravens say Ray Rice will be back
By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
The party line in Chicago sounds similar with regard to running back Matt Forte. He led the Bears in both rushing yards and receptions in 2011, and the running game certainly isn't going to become less important after Mike Martz's departure as offensive coordinator.
Matt Forte decision looms for Bears
And that brings us to Marshawn Lynch, who is younger than Forte, 9 months older than Rice and can make the argument that he might be even more important to his team given the emphasis Seattle coach Pete Carroll has placed on building a physical ground game.
In the past five years, there have been a grand total of two running backs who received the franchise tag from their respective teams: Darren Sproles (San Diego, 2009) and Brandon Jacobs (New York Giants, 2009). That's it.
Teams can begin designating franchise players later this month, and there's the distinct possibility that three running backs could receive the tag.
Well, there are two reasons really:
1) DeAngelo Williams' contract in Carolina. He signed a five-year deal to remain in Carolina worth a total of $43 million. Almost half that $43 million total was guaranteed. Rice, Forte and Lynch are all well within their rights to argue that they've been more productive than Williams.
The problem is that teams are also within their rights to point out this second fact:
2) The franchise-tag cost for a running back is expected to be about $7.7 million, according to a report from the league's own Web site. That's down from $9.6 million in 2011 and $8.2 million in 2010.
Why pay a running back a contract that averages out to more than $8 million per year when you can apply the franchise tag for less?
When the negotiations get down to brass tacks and bare knuckles with those three running backs, the reality of that franchise tag is going to become some very significant leverage for teams.