by Mario Granata
With all the talk swirling around the Buffalo Bills and especially trying to resign Jerry Hughes, there are some decisions that have to be made. One of the ideas that are being thrown around is the franchise tag. Now, Bills fans are well aware of this as recent history has shown the effect it had on Jairus Byrd, but for those of you who want a more detailed breakdown of the franchise tag and the elements that are included, lets take a look at what would happen if the Bills decide to go this route.
Hughes’ Original Contract:
The Indianapolis Colts drafted Jerry Hughes in the 1st round in 2010 (31st pick). This has significance because the CBA negotiated a rookie wage scale that players taken in the 1st round, could only make a certain amount, but more importantly, any player taken in the 1st round, could have a 5th year option exercised on their contract. (For a comprehensive breakdown of the Rookie Wage Scale, click here).
Because Hughes was selected in picks 11-32, he was given a 5th year, that the Bills exercised, and because he was selected where he was, his one-year option was equivalent to the average salary of player 3-25 at his position, which was about 4 million dollars. Well, Jerry wants his money now, and at 26, he is looking for a long-term, bonus-laced deal that will carry him until his early 30s. The Bills do have options, however.
The Franchise Tag carried two categories with it: Exclusive and Non-exclusive:
Exclusive Tag – If the Buffalo Bills were to franchise tag Hughes and use the exclusive tag, he would be paid either the average of the Top 5 players at his position (4-3 DE) or 120% of his previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. The average of the Top 5, 4-3, DEs is an estimated 14.78 million dollars*. The exclusive tag also prohibits any team of negotiating with Hughes for the duration of his contract.
Non-exclusive Tag – If the Bills were to use the non-exclusive tag on Hughes, the dollar amount would be the same (14.78 million, estimated), however, and Hughes would be able to negotiate with other teams that would want his services. For example, if Buffalo tagged him using the non-exclusive tag, and the Atlanta Falcons wanted to acquire his services, and Hughes decided to leave, the Bills would be compensated in the form of 2-1st round picks from Atlanta. If Atlanta offered Hughes a contract, the Bills have the right to match whatever the Falcons offer him.
The transition tag, which was used on Pittsburgh’s Jason Worilds and Cleveland’s Alex Mack gives teams another option to use. Worilds signed a one-year deal, while Mack was offered a deal which the Browns matched. The transition tag takes the average of the top 10 players at the position, so Hughes would be due an estimated 11.94 million if the Bills used the transition tag on him. Like the non-exclusive tag, Hughes would have the option to negotiate with other teams, and the Bills would have the right to match any offer that was presented before him. If there was an offer for Hughes, and the Bills decided not to match, Buffalo would be given no compensation for him.
If the Bills were unable to come to an agreement with Jerry Hughes, which of the three tags would you like them to use on Hughes? Now, there can be some debate on where Hughes is classified, but since he was a 4-3 DE last season, these are the numbers that would equate to his tag, whatever it may be. The irony in this equation is that the highest paid 4-3 DE is on the opposite side of Hughes in the form of Mario Williams. By placing the franchise tag on Hughes, the Bills would have 2 of the top 3 highest paid “bookends” in the NFL. With Buffalo being close to 29 million under the cap, could they afford Hughes? That is the burning question on all of the Buffalo faithful.