With yesterday's unbelievable-yet-unsurprising news that Mikey has decided to use the team's franchise tag on Shayne Graham, here's a handy guide as to why it's the dumbest move since Mike Brown's last football related decision.
Q: So what does this even mean?
For all intents and purposes, Shayne Graham is the team's franchise player for 2009. The team could potentially pull back the offer before Graham signs it, but that's very unlikely to happen. Graham is technically a free agent, however any team signing him would have to give up a 1st round pick in the 2009 and 2010 NFL Drafts. Needless to say, that's not going to happen.
Q: You say the team could pull back the offer. So could we still tag TJ?
No. You can only use the franchise tag (or the completely useless transition tag) on one player per year, no matter what.
Q: How dumb is it to franchise a kicker?
Actually, I'm not totally against a team franchising a kicker. If you don't have anyone else to protect with the tag, and the guy is clearly in the upper echelon (think top 5) of the league, go ahead. It goes without saying, but this situation fails both of those criteria.
Q: Well, at least we locked up one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, that can't be all that bad, right?
Ah, Baghdad Hob himself would be smiling at this question. Is Graham one of the most accurate kickers in league history? Sure. But guess what? Virtually every kicker in the league is. Look at this list of the top kickers by percentage in history. Sure, Graham is the active leader, but not much separates him from paper-towel-dispenser-attacking moron Jeff Reed, or even 48 year old Morton Anderson. Literally a few more long yardage attempts would likely take him from active leader to middle of the pack.
Also, all research done on this subject suggests field goal percentage can vary widely from year to year, and kickers true value comes from the distance on their kickoffs (which Graham lacks). Because there are 32 NFL kicking jobs on the planet and more than 32 people qualified to fill those positions, a guy off the street wouldn't be much worse than Graham. Certainly, you'd rather pay the league minimum for random kicker X than pay Graham 2.48 million. A kicker is the very definition of replaceable.
Q: Why do the Bengals always use the tag while other teams don't?
To be honest, I have no clue, but I don't understand why more teams don't use the tag virtually every year. Sure, it's a one year deal that's guaranteed, but it's not hurting your cap long term. The obvious caveat here is that you have to make sure the player is worth it. The Justin Smith tag was a joke, but I didn't mind the Stacy Andrews decision. So don't just think I'm blindly attacking Bengals management because it's the thing to do.
Q: Is there any silver lining here?
Well, I guess it's a good thing the tag wasn't used on Cedric Benson, who is also imminently replaceable, or Chris Crocker, who was cut by a real life successful NFL team last year. Both of those guys would have cost around $6.5 million and could have prevented a potential free agent signing (try not to laugh).
Q: So, who are the real winners in this story?
Well, us for one. A solid week of material and a joke that will last for years to come. Another would be the man, the myth, the legend, the hardest man alive, Touraj Houshmandzadeh. For one, he's an unrestricted free agent. Also, he gets to play for an honest to God NFL operation now. Hooray for TJ!
Q: You seem to think the team should have franchised Housh. Why?
Look, I totally understand the notion that you shouldn't give a 32 year old wideout the kind of money Housh would get on the open market. It kills your cap numbers, and despite popular belief the cap isn't going away for more than a year anytime soon. I'm totally comfortable with the fact Housh will be playing for someone else next year. Such is life when your team isn't any good.
That being said, just because he doesn't have much value for you doesn't mean he doesn't have much value. The 49ers are thought to be interested in TJ and they value early picks about like Chris Brown values his public image. The Eagles have multiple first rounders. The Vikings will trade picks for veterans, have a need at WR, and their coach that needs to win now. Instead of the late 3rd they'll get next year as a compensatory pick, they could have gotten a top 60 pick this year.
Think what that would do for their flexibility come draft day. You like BJ Raji at the top of the draft, but don't want to pass on a stud OT? With an extra pick in that range, you could pass on the OT and hope Oher falls far enough to go back up and get him. You could also grab someone at a luxury position like tailback or wideout if a guy you can't pass up falls to you.
Just another blown opportunity.