The 2017 NFL Scouting Combine starts this week, but more importantly Free Agency is almost here. Along with the start of Free Agency, teams must decide whether to use a Franchise or Transition Tag on their important impending FAs if they cannot sign them to a long term deal.
The deadline for a team to place a tag on their players is Wednesday March 1st. In anticipation of that, this morning started off with the report that the Arizona Cardinals will be using the Franchise Tag on Chandler Jones. Shortly after that report we saw this:
Other players expected to be tagged by Wednesday deadline include Kirk Cousins, Le'Veon Bell, Kawann Short, Melvin Ingram, Trumaine Johnson.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2017
Now, most of us here at BFTB have been critical of Melvin Ingram. I’m not here to get into that today. But that rumor now brings up some questions.
- Will the team use the Franchise Tag or the Transition Tag on Ingram?
- What will the tag cost?
Question 1 is interesting but to get there we should first answer question 2.
Ingram is listed as an OLB so he would fall under the LB tag numbers. We do not know the final numbers yet, as the league has yet to announce the official salary cap for the 2017 season, however Albert Breer projected out the tag numbers based on the $168.1 million cap number that was floated at the owners meetings back in December. At that cap number Ingram’s Franchise Tag would be $14.6 million and his Transition Tag would be $12.4 million.
The difference between the 2 types of tags are compensation. If the Chargers use the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag, another team could sign Ingram, but would have to give the Chargers two 1st round picks. Not likely to happen, which makes keeping him more likely, but is that worth the extra $2.2 million to the team? If the Chargers use the Transition Tag, they save that $2.2 million, but if another team gives Ingram an offer, the Chargers only 2 options are match that offer and keep him, or lose him with no compensation (except for the possibility of a compensatory pick next year). Honestly I could probably understand arguments for either side here.
Regardless of which tag is given, this will force the Chargers to cut or restructure some pretty serious money. As it stands today, with no cuts or re-signings, the Chargers have $20,231,314 in cap space according to overthecap.com (OTC), a site which I have found to be pretty accurate. So even if the Chargers choose the Transition Tag, they are now down under $8 million in cap space, and according to OTC’s rookie pool calculations, they’ll need about $7.63 million for their rookie class. That leaves no money to re-sign internal free agents or bring anyone else in.
There is an additional pandoras box that could happen with the tag as well. Ingram is indeed listed as an OLB, and plays as a LB for the most part, however the team is transitioning to a 4-3 and he will likely be playing as a DE. The tag numbers for DEs are about $2.5 million more expensive than LB tag number this year. So if he was feeling like he deserved more, he could pull a Jimmy Graham and appeal his position listing on the tag.
With Ingram being universally regarded as, at worst, a top 5 FA this year by the media and likely also by actual front offices, the Chargers will very likely need to use the tag or waive goodbye, because other teams will be willing to “get the guns out” for Mel.