Lunch Break

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Lunchbreak: The Ins and Outs of the Franchise Tag

Posted Feb 20, 2018

The franchise tag window is officially open.

Tuesday marked the opening of the two-week period that runs from Feb. 20-Mar. 6 where teams can place a special designation on a player who is scheduled to be a free agent. 

ESPN.com writer Kevin Seifert took a look at what exactly the franchise tag is, and the usual questions that surround it during this time of year.

Seifert explained exactly what the franchise tag is:

The franchise tag is a labor designation that restricts a player's potential movement in exchange for a high one-year salary. It is governed by owners and players through the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and has two types.

The first is the "exclusive-rights" franchise tag. Any player with this tag is bound to the team for the upcoming season. His agent is prohibited from seeking offer sheets elsewhere.

The second is the "non-exclusive" franchise tag. In this scenario, players can sign an offer sheet with another team.

Seifert also tackled the question of what happens after a team chooses to apply one of the two tags to a player.

There are usually two common scenarios — either the sides agree to a new contract, or the player plays the upcoming season with a higher salary before becoming a free agent again.

Seifert explained: 

The player can sign the tender at any time, a decision that fully guarantees the salary and immediately places all of it on the current year's cap charge. This can increase a player's leverage in a tight cap situation; the team will be motivated to negotiate a longer-term deal to lower the cap number.

The decision can also backfire if the team is comfortable with the high cap number; the leverage in this case would side with a player who remains unsigned as camp looms.

In either event, the sides have until July 16 to agree on a multiyear extension. After that point, the player can sign only a one-year contract, which cannot be extended until after the season.

The tricky part about the franchise tag, Seifert noted, is that teams have to choose to apply it without knowing exactly what the one-year salary would be for that player.

Seifert said those numbers are usually released after the franchise tag window but before free agency begins on March 14.

More information about the franchise tag can be found here in Seifert’s in-depth look at the unique roster option.

Vikings have 8th-toughest schedule for 2018 season

The Vikings will face a tough road schedule in 2018, as Minnesota will play both Super Bowl LII participants — Philadelphia and New England — away from U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings will also have to travel to the West Coast for road games against the Rams and Seahawks, as well as the East Coast to face the Jets.

Tim Yotter of Viking Update recently looked at Minnesota’s 2018 schedule and found the Vikings have the eighth-toughest schedule among all NFL teams, based on 2017 win percentages of 2018 opponents.

Yotter wrote:

Put it all together and the Vikings’ opponents in 2018 had a combined winning percentage of .520 and Minnesota will be playing five 2017 playoff teams and eight games against teams with a winning record last year.

Still, compared to the rest of the NFC North, the Vikings’ schedule isn’t too bad. The Green Bay Packers have the toughest schedule in the NFL, based on strength of schedule. Their 2018 opponents had a .539 winning percentage in 2017, and the Detroit Lions are tied for the second- hardest schedule, with their 2018 opponents combining for a .535 winning percentage in 2017.

The final team in the NFC North, the Chicago Bears, are tied with the Vikings for the eighth- hardest schedule in the NFL, with their opponents posting a .520 winning percentage in 2017.

The Vikings will have home and away games against their three division foes, while other home games include Arizona, San Francisco, Buffalo, Miami and New Orleans.