Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of the NFLPA and Drew Brees yesterday, stating that franchise tags follow players throughout their career. In this particular case, that means that Brees' first franchise tag in 2005, when he was with the San Diego Chargers, still counts, and the New Orleans Saints are placing the second tag on Brees.
That also means, if a long term deal between Brees and the Saints cannot be reached this year, a third tag on Brees would result in a 44-percent pay increase, bringing his cap number to around $23 million.
NBC Sports' Mike Florio then took a look at the next fight that the NFL and the NFLPA, along with Brees, could be taking to Burbank is whether or not teams can franchise tag a player more than three times. As Florio writes, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement does not mention a fourth franchise tag on a player.
The NFLPA is expected to argue that, since it is not mentioned in the CBA, a fourth franchise tag is "simply not possible." The league, according to Florio, would then counter that, since the CBA does not ban a fourth franchise tag, it must be permitted.
The league obviously wants to give teams the ability to continue to franchise tag a player, continually giving the 44-percent pay raise from the previous year with each subsequent use of the tag, while the NFLPA clearly wants to be able to get a player to free agency, and out from under the one-year franchise tag, as quickly as possible. With Burbank's pro-NFLPA ruling yesterday, expectations would be another defeat for the NFL.
The interesting part of this argument, however, is, while Brees clearly would want to solidify the Saints' inability to franchise tag him after the 2013 season if no long term contract is completed, there really is no way for the Saints to afford a fourth tag on their quarterback. Florio calculated Brees' salary for the 2014 season, under a fourth franchise tag, to be $33.94 million - or approximately 25-percent of the team's salary cap.
While the decision yesterday, and the future argument, do not directly impact the Miami Dolphins right now, the team is currently positioning itself to possibly use the franchise tag on left tackle Jake Long after this season. While the dramatic pay raises that come with multiple uses of the tag would make it unlikely the Dolphins would continually tag Long, a decision on how many times a player may be tagged will be interesting to watch.