Tuesday 7 February 2012

CFL Franchise Tag

Last week, the Tiger-Cats released Simeon Rottier and he was quickly snapped up by the Edmonton Eskimos. It had long been been rumoured that Rottier wanted to play in Edmonton, and would leave the Tiger-Cats and sign with the Eskimos when his contract expired following the season.

The Cats said they did everything they could to get Rottier's name on a contract, but in the end they realized there was nothing they could offer that would keep him in Black & Gold. Rottier was Hamilton's first-round pick, first overall, in the 2009 CFL Draft, and had begun to develop into a very good Lineman, starting the last two seasons at Guard. The Ti-Cats nurture him, trained him and groomed him, but lost him to Edmonton for nothing. That's the nature of the game, and it has happened countless times to every team in the league, but that doesn't make it right.

This got me thinking; the NFL has a clause in their CBA to protect a team from losing a great player if they cannot come to terms on a long-term contract: the franchise tag. Teams can designate one free agent per year as its franchise player, and that player gets paid the average of the top paid player at his position over the last five years.

The CFL has no such option, and based on what happened with Rottier and the Tiger-Cats this past week, perhaps they should consider adding one.

Having it would allow teams to keep some of their best players that they are having trouble signing to extensions. It would be somewhat restrictive in that up to eight players would be forced to stay with their current club, and some of those players, like Rottier, who have their heart set on changing teams would be disappointed. That can bring a whole host of problems, but the NFL franchise have made it work, so there is no reason their CFL counterparts couldn't do the same.

There are obvious complications with trying to adopt this for the CFL. First and foremost, is the Players Association would probably never go for it. Restricting player movement, which this plan most certainly would do, would not be met with open arms by the PA. Players Unions have notoriously been against such restrictive practices, so there is no doubt that any franchise tag-like mechanism would be challenged by the PA.

Secondly, the CFL does not publicly divulge player salaries, but this plan relies on the GMs of all eight teams and the agents for all the players knowing exactly what each player makes. I don't know if that happens already, but if it does, then there is no problem. If it does not, then it would have to for this plan to work.

This is obviously a management-friendly idea, but that doesn't mean the players lose in this situation. Even if all eight teams used the tag every year, that would only stop a maximum eight players from leaving during free agency. Therefore, franchise would have to be judicious on who they use their tag on. Many seasons see multiple franchise-worthy players hit the free agent market – just look at Toronto's pending free agents this season – so who to tag and who not to tag would not be an easy decision, and good players would still hit the open market.

The concept has worked in the NFL, so it might be something that can work in the CFL as well.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting idea but you are forgetting 1 major part that basically would make it useless.

    You would have to create a rule for those players, who have fulfilled their full contract and are going to try out in the (NFL). Fantuz, Hickman and Medlock would be examples. Thigpen not, because he was in his option year.

    For example, the Cats would franchise tag Hickman but what if he goes to the NFL? Can you tag someone else? Is he your property if he comes back to the CFL? There would be a lot of loop holes that you would have to close.

    I like the idea but it wouldn't work practically. True free agents don't have to sign in the NFL before Feb 15th. They can sign right up to when camps start in the NFL.