Today is the day that NFL teams can start designating the dreaded franchise tag to players that are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. The purpose of the franchise tag is to keep what the team feels to be an indispensable player on their roster for a one year deal. That deal is averaged out to the highest five salaries at that individual player position throughout the league, or a 120% raise from that players last contract, whichever is greater. They also have the option to use the transition tag in place of the franchise tag, which gives the team a right of first refusal to match any contract offer another team makes to the player.
The Minnesota Vikings have 14 pending unrestricted free agents that are eligible for the franchise or transition tag. Let's take a look at the candidates, and we'll tell you why they won't get a tag.
Chad Greenway, OLB: Ironically, Greenway was the last player the Vikings actually used the tag on, back in 2011. But things were different then. Greenway was one of the better and more productive LB's in the NFL, and losing him would've been a big blow to what was a pretty bad defense. Now, Greenway is 33, coming off a productive year as a situational player, but doesn't command a salary that would be over $13 million (last year's LB tag number was $13.1 million). Greenway said he wants to come back for one more year, and in a similar role he had last season, I think it would be a great fit. But as far as the franchise tag goes? No, not happening.
Terence Newman, CB: Like Greenway, Newman had a resurgent season in Mike Zimmer's defense, and was an important piece of what went right in 2015. Still, Newman is 37, and the Vikings have a first round pick in Trae Waynes looking to supplant him. Bringing Newman back and either keeping him at CB or even moving him to safety is a strong possibility, but a franchise tag salary of $13 million (13.075 from 2015) is way too steep.
Michael Harris, G-T: Harris is listed as a tackle, but started all 16 games at right guard when the Vikings offensive line suffered a couple of big injuries early in the pre-season. And at times, Harris was the best offensive lineman on the team, and was easily the most consistent, next to Joe Berger. The tag number for offensive linemen (there are no breakouts for individual positions) was $12.9 million last year, and Harris was a valuable starter. With a lot of question marks regarding the health of Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan, you can make a good argument Harris is priority #1 to re-sign in free agency. But I still don't see him getting the franchise tag.
Marcus Sherels, CB: As we've said here many times on DN, if mankind is destroyed in some kind of Apocalyptic event, the only things left to inherit the world will be cockroaches, Twinkies, and Marcus Sherels. Every year heading into training camp, it seems, Sherels has one foot out the door, but when the music stops he's always sitting in a chair. As versatile and valuable as he is as a punt returner and depth cornerback, he's still not going to get a $13 million tag. I think the Vikings will make a big push to re-sign him, though, and I hope they do. Because I'm not ever counting Sherels out again, and he's one of the best special teams players in the NFL.
Andrew Sendejo, S: If the Vikings use the franchise tag on Andrew Sendejo everything is awful and terrible and Rick Spielman will need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before being allowed to continue as Vikings GM. Yes, Sendejo was a starter. And yes, he took his girlfriend to McDonald's for Valentine's Day, which is kind of awesome, but no. Just...no.
Jason Trusnik, OLB: Nope.
Casey Matthews, ILB: Nope.
Matt Asiata, RB: I like Matt Asiata, I really do. Like Sherels, he seems to fight off what looks to be better competition in training camp every year, and he has a productive role as a pass catcher and part time runner. But they key phrase here is 'part time', and no part time player that's essentially a third down running back is going to get a franchise tag, which would be around $11 million.
Josh Robinson, CB: Nope.
Kenrick Ellis, DT: Nope.
Justin Trattou, DE: Trattou really turned some heads last year in fairly limited action, but he's a rotational depth guy. He's also a guy I would think the Vikings want back, to be sure, but not at a tag number that would be $15 million.
Rhett Ellison, TE: I like Ellison, but no.
Robert Blanton, S: If Spielman would need a psych eval for tagging Sendejo, he'd need to be fired if he tagged Blanton. Seriously.
Audie Cole, LB: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ZOMG AUDIE PLEASE DON'T LEAVE...but as much as we all love Audie around here, the Vikings aren't going to tag him. I'd love to see him back here, though.
So with that last of candidates, don't expect the Vikings to use the franchise or transition tag today.