Tomorrow is the deadline for the Chargers to decide if they're going to use their franchise tag and on whom. I'm not going to go in great, great detail of what the franchise tag does and what it means and how many times it can be used and all of that. What I will show is why I think it's a bad idea for us to use it this year. The only legitimate candidate to be franchised is Darren Sproles. The franchise tag, if applies, locks a player into a one-year deal with a salary that's equal to the average of the top 5 paid players at that position. So let's figure out what a franchise tag would equate to in terms of a contract for Sproles.
Top 5 Running Backs
LaDainian Tomlinson -$5,750,000
Edgerrin James -$5,000,000
Fred Taylor -$4,000,000
Ronnie Brown -$3,658,266
Chester Taylor/Warrick Dunn - $3,000,000
I'm not sure if Fred Taylor will be included because I'm not sure if they go off of 2008 numbers or 2009 numbers, which is why I included numbers 5 and 6 (Taylor and Dunn). For the sake of this argument, we'll pretend Fred's contract is still used. Out of those 6 contracts, the only one that still makes sense to me is Ronnie Brown. Taylor and Dunn are good, but overpaid. LT is no longer the best back in the league and Edge isn't even in the top 10 anymore. A franchise tag placed on Sproles would result in a one-year contract for $4,281,653, making him the 3rd highest paid RB in the NFL. Ideally we could restructure LT's contract before applying the franchise tag and lower the amount (although I don't know if that's possible), but either way I don't know if it's wise for us to have 2 of the 5 most expensive running backs in the league when it would still leave us with a mediocre running game.
I love what Sproles brings to the return game, but outside of that I don't see what incredible value he has. So he could be useful on 3rd downs....we already have probably the best 3rd down back in the history of the NFL in LT. I'd much franchise neither of them and try and sign them to smaller long-term contracts. I don't think we can give Sproles starter's money because I don't even know if he's good enough and injury-proof enough to be a backup to LT. I think we need a young, powerful back to split carries with LT and we can work Hester in as the FB who can run and catch. That leaves nothing for Sproles besides the return game, where he could be replaced without a huge drop in production.
Let's put it to a vote.....what are you doing with the Chargers franchise tag?