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The Franchise Tag: Not So Fast?

We've spent most of the day discussing how the franchise tag will become available to NFL teams on February 10, and how the Vikings might use their tag (Ray Edwards, Chad Greenway, and Sidney Rice to be specific). But the NFLPA, the union that represents NFL players, begs to differ. According to the folks at Pro Football Talk, this is what the NFLPA had to say:

"We have received reports that the NFL is advising clubs that they can place a franchise tag on players whose contracts will expire at the end of the 2010 league year," the Union says in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by PFT.

"The current CBA provides that ‘each club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent [or Restricted Free Agent] as a Franchise Player each season during the term of this Agreement.’ The 2011 season is not a ‘season during the term of this Agreement’ so the NFL has no valid basis for claiming the right to franchise players in 2011.

"If you have had any discussions with clubs about their intent to use the Franchise designation for the 2011 season please contact the NFLPA to discuss this matter. Meanwhile, we will make sure that the rights of any players improperly designated will be protected."

At first glance, I tend to side with the NFLPA here. If there's no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, it doesn't make sense to me that teams could still force these one-year contracts on players. (Granted, I'd likely give up multiple appendages to get the top-five money that franchised players get, but that's beside the point.) Either you're locking the players out next month or you're giving all free agents a shot at new contracts--you can't have it both ways. (Unless your name is Charlie Sheen. Then you can have it up to three or more ways, apparently.)

This is just another bump on what's going to be a long, arduous road ahead for the NFL. I wish I could tell you to enjoy the Super Bowl on Sunday since it might be the last NFL game you see for a while...but I couldn't possibly say that in good conscience when there's a chance of the Packers winning said game.