I mentioned Erin Henderson yesterday, along with the fact that the Minnesota Vikings should really consider getting him re-signed this off-season and build around him as part of their defense. Teams can start using their "franchise" tags on players tomorrow, and with nothing apparently imminent on that front, it raises the question of whether or not the possibility of using the franchise tag on Henderson the Younger exists.
The Vikings used their franchise tag last year on another linebacker, Chad Greenway, and it might seem a bit excessive to use that sort of money on two players playing the same position. However, according to this article from Yahoo! Sports, "that sort of money" is not as much as it was last season.
As Jason La Canfora of NFL.com first wrote last November, the new franchise tag numbers will no longer be the aggregate of the annual salaries of the five-highest players at a particular position. Instead, it's a more complicated formula that takes into account the franchise tag numbers over the last five seasons. For example, the $16.1 million Michael Vick would have made when he Philadelphia Eagles franchised him in February of 2011 (before he signed his current six-year, $100 million contract) would drop to $14.4 million for free agent quarterbacks in 2012.
In this particular case, the franchise tender for Henderson would be about $8.8 million, a drop from the $10.1 million it sat at last season when the Vikings tagged Greenway.
So, using the tag on Erin Henderson and taking advantage of that to hammer out a long-term deal might be in the Vikings' best interest, depending on how much cap space the team intends to clear out. I'm not sure if the team intends to go this route or not. . .after all, they can continue trying to work something out until just before the start of free agency and them tag Henderson if they'd wish. But with lower franchise numbers than last year and a desire to get younger, it is something the Vikings should look at pretty closely.