Putting Our Thinking Caps On: Sidney Rice & The Franchise Tag

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As we wrote on earlier today, Rick Spielman opened his mouth today to talk about the Franchise Tag, the upcoming draft and the uncertainty of the entire NFL’s offseason surrounding the CBA and a possible lockout. Throughout this interview, most of what Spielman said was canned bologna. And canned bologna is okay… The last thing we’d want is our coach or a VP tipping their hand on the team’s offseason plans.

But the littlest tidbits from Spielman did catch my attention. He did specifically single out two impending free agents in Chad Greenway and Sidney Rice to say “Those guys we want to have back on our roster” and how the decision to either Franchise Tag them or sign them to a long-term deal was ongoing.

As most every savvy football fan knows (you know the ones that read blogs on the internet), a franchise tag guarantees that the player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position in the previous year, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. The going rate for the 2011 season for both WRs and LBs is anticipated to be about $10 to 12 million a piece with the recent news on how the San Diego Chargers tagged WR Vincent Jackson and the New York Jets on LB David Harris. It’s also assumed that each NFL team will be allowed one tag and even with the uncertainty surrounding the CBA the franchise tag does have a good chance of sticking for next season.

We’ve discussed before that re-signing Greenway to a longer-term deal now makes perfect sense because he’s earned it with years of consistency and has publicly said he wants to stay in Minnesota. The South Dakota native obviously wants to get paid, but also doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would hold out or pull the Latrell Sprewell “I have a family to feed” line.

So I went back to review wide receivers signing an extension in 2010 and here is what was found…

-> Andre Johnson signed a 7-year, $62.7 million contract with $48 million guaranteed

-> Miles Austin signed a 7-year, $57.2 million contract with $18 million guaranteed

-> Brandon Marshall signed a 5-year, $47.3 million contract with $12.5 million guaranteed

-> Anquan Boldin signed a 4-year, $28 million contract with $10 million guaranteed

When looking at these contracts in terms of guaranteed money, offering a wide receiver $10 to 12 million for one season is a lot of friggin money (Andre Johnson obviously has 4x that in guaranteed money, but guys that make the Pro Bowl 5 times before turning 30 likely end up in Canton). The tea leaves state that Spielman realizes this and that leads to further statements on how the Vikings are undecided on if we’ll even use the franchise tag at all.

Perhaps signing long-term deals for both Chad and Sidney this offseason makes the most sense for everyone. Slapping the Franchise Tag on Sidney while saying “prove it” in unison with trying to work a long-term deal could be seen as the second best option. Or else we could just offer him exactly what Bernard Berrian got three years ago and send the self-proclaimed “B-twice” packing. Bernard’s deal of 6-years, $43.4 million contract with $16 million guaranteed (that has already been paid out) seems fair to Sidney and would obviously please many of the fans in purple.

Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig

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