While we’ve already heard the rumors that the Minnesota Vikings won’t be using the Franchise Player tag on any of their three quarterbacks, there’s at least one source that thinks the team could use the “other” tag in order to work things out with their starter for much of the 2017 season.
This is the quintessential use of a transition tag. Keenum is an anomaly, having a breakout season so late in his career. And he just lost his offensive coordinator/play caller, and the Vikings have no QB under contract who has thrown an NFL pass. No way I am getting to March 6 without still being tethered to an NFL passer, and no way am I considering Minnesota’s other options (Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater) for the spot. Save a few million bucks with the lower transition tag and rent Keenum for another year at $21 million (a touch more than what guys like Brock Osweiler and Mike Glennon earned last season) and see if the market speaks. Give Keenum, after such a career year, the chance to talk to other teams and see what else is out there; if someone offers something nuts, he walks. And if they don’t, it may help facilitate a 2-3 year bridge contract by July 15 that offers some stability. It’s too risky, to me, to wait til mid March and enter the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes – and with this defense and potential run game, a $30M quarterback might not be what Mike Zimmer needs, anyway.
Now, the Transition Tag hasn’t been used much over the past few years, at least in part because of the Vikings (which we’ll get into here shortly). But there are some significant differences between the Franchise and Transition tags.
First, while the Franchise Tag guarantees the player in question a salary commensurate with the average of the top five players at his position, the Transition Tag increases that to the top ten, which lowers the price tag a bit. In this instance, the price tag for Keenum would be about $23 million under the Franchise Tag and closer to $21 million under the Transition Tag.
The biggest difference, however, deals with compensation for the losing team. If another team signs a player that has had the Franchise Tag placed on them, the team that loses the player is entitled to two first-round draft picks as compensation (unless the teams work out some sort of agreement). On the other hand, if a player that has been hit with the Transition Tag signs an offer sheet with another team, his current team has seven days to match. If they do not match the offer sheet, they receive no compensation, outside of a compensatory selection in the next year’s NFL Draft. All the Transition Tag gives a team, essentially, is the right of first refusal.
The transition tag has not been used much in recent years, following the saga between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks back in 2006. The Seahawks placed the Transition Tag on guard Steve Hutchinson that year, and the Vikings signed him to an offer sheet. That offer sheet contained a “poison pill” that said if Hutchinson was not the highest-paid offensive lineman on the team his contract would become fully guaranteed. As the Seahawks had just given a huge contract to tackle Walter Jones, matching Hutchinson’s contract would have immediately guaranteed the entire thing.
The Seahawks tried to get revenge on the Vikings by signing receiver Nate Burleson to an offer sheet that said his contract would become fully guaranteed if he played more than five games a year in the state of Minnesota. Burleson wound up with Seattle. . .but, since he was a Restricted Free Agent and not a tagged player or anything, the Vikings got a third-round draft pick in exchange. So, the Vikings essentially traded Nate Burleson for Steve Hutchinson and a third-round draft choice. . .a deal that I’m pretty sure they’d make every time.
I don’t know if the odds of the Vikings using the Transition Tag on Case Keenum are very good or anything like that, but I suppose the possibility is out there. The could see if any team was that interested in Keenum’s services while continuing to pursue other avenues and see if they can figure out the best way to solve their quarterback situation. I’d be surprised if it happened, but I’ve been surprised before.