Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teams Play Tag with Pace, Spikes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teams Play Tag with Pace, Spikes

Article excerpt

Byline: Vito Stellino, Times-Union sports writer

NFL teams started to play the tag game yesterday.

The St. Louis Rams slapped a franchise tag on offensive tackle Orlando Pace and the Cincinnati Bengals put the transition tag on linebacker Takeo Spikes, limiting the players' ability to sell themselves on the league's free agent market.

Teams have until Feb. 20 to put the tag on players for free agency, which begins Feb. 28.

A pair of offensive linemen, Walter Jones of the Seahawks and Flozell Adams of the Cowboys, could get tagged for the second year in a row.

Chris McAlister of the Ravens, the best cornerback on the market, is likely to get tagged. The Buffalo Bills are debating whether to put the tag on Peerless Price, the best receiver in this year's free agent crop.

If a player gets the franchise tag and doesn't sign a new contract, he gets the average of the salary cap number of the top five players at his position last year. For Pace, that would be $5.73 million.

A player who gets the transition tag gets the average of the top 10 players at his position. For Spikes, that's $4.8 million.

But players don't want to play for the one-year figure because they want long-term deals with a hefty signing bonus, which they get to keep, even if injured.

Spikes told the Bengals' Website, "The tag is something they're using to keep me there, even though I'm not happy and I don't understand it."

A player with a franchise tag can negotiate with other teams, but a team signing him would have to give up two first-round picks if his original team doesn't match the offer.

That's usually enough to discourage teams from making offers. Teams are often reluctant to pursue transition players because their original teams can match their offers, even without any draft picks involved.

Players who are tagged often hold out. Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs did that last year when he was the only player to get what is called an exclusive franchise tag.

That meant the Chiefs had to pay him the average of the top five salary cap numbers in the current year instead of the previous year. Gonzalez eventually signed a seven-year $31 million deal with a $10 million bonus. …

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