Every postseason, speculation arises around the numerous talented NFL impending free agents, who could potentially hit the free agency market. This year, the Miami Dolphins face critical decisions on several potential free agents, including Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon, both of whom may be candidates for the Dolphins’ franchise tag.
Both Miller and Vernon were drafted by the Dolphins out of the University of Miami in 2012, and face an expiring contract in 2016.
Miller, a sixth round pick, rushed for his first 1,000-yard season in 2014 and searched for a breakout campaign in 2015. Despite his unexpectedly small role, Miller impressed teams throughout the NFL, and will likely receive substantial interest among numerous teams.
Meanwhile, Vernon has started the last 30 of 32 games for the Dolphins, providing a considerable role for the Dolphins. In the past two seasons, Vernon has provided a one-two punch with Cameron Wake, totaling 14 sacks and 73 tackles, making him a potential commodity for teams looking for an agile pass rusher.
With Miller and Vernon potentially hitting the free agency market in May, the Dolphins may make a decision to franchise tag either player in the February 16 – March 1 franchise tag period. If the Dolphins do not apply a tag on either player, it is unlikely the Dolphins will be able to retain both, due to salary cap restrictions.
According to Joel Corry of CBS Sports, below are the projected costs to apply a franchise tag to a defensive end or running back:
Defensive end: $15.494 million
Running back: $11.871 million
The projections made by Corry are based on preliminary salary cap projections, as the salary caps are finalized by early March. The Dolphins will also face decisions on the expiring contracts of Matt Moore, Derrick Shelby, Louis Delmas, Kelvin Sheppard, Rishard Matthews, Michael Thomas, Spencer Paysinger, Jake Stoneburner and more.
The franchise tag is a clause given by an NFL franchise to an impending free agent, essentially hindering the individual’s ability to become a free agent, and provide a justifiable season in order to retain a long-term contract. Despite the injury and marketability costs for players, in turn, they are typically provided with a steep contract.
According to Corry, a former sporting agent and current CBS Sports contributor, franchise tag salaries are determined a five-year salary calculation, tied to a percentage of the team’s salary cap. As opposed to in previous seasons (after the collective bargaining agreement), a franchise tag salary was broken down into the average salary of the five largest salaries of the year prior, or 120 percent of the prior year’s salary of the player.
There are two types of franchise tags, the non-exclusive or the exclusive. An exclusive tag excludes another team from negotiating with the specified player. Meanwhile the non-exclusive tag allows teams to negotiate, although if another team makes a long-term offer, the tagging team has the ability to match the offer. If the player signs with the new team, the player’s old team is compensated with two first-round draft picks from the new team.
In addition to the franchise tag, teams have the option to apply a transition tag, where the salary is based on the top ten salaries at a player’s position. The transition tag operates similarly to the franchise tag. The transition tag is seen as a less-expensive route, although it is the least used of the tagging procedures.
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