Today at 4:00 pm ET was the deadline for all NFL teams to use their franchise tag on a free agent player of their choosing. The Atlanta Falcons chose not to use theirs, and it was a good move for a number of reasons.
Saddling a player with a franchise tag rarely brings warm fuzzy feelings between the tagged player and team. It’s a way for teams to lock down a free agent for a single year at a set price. Most players who get tagged are generally considered important to the team, and are usually looking for multi-year deals or significant raises (or both).
Last year the Falcons tagged DB Brent Grimes, who then refused to sign his one-year tender until the team made it clear they were prepared to move on without him by signing other in-house free agent DBs and making a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for Asante Samuel. Grimes signed the deal, only to miss about 99% of the season with an injury.
This year it was thought by many that the Falcons would tag Pro Bowl safety William Moore, who played a crucial part of Atlanta’s defensive success in 2012. It would have cost the Falcons $6.8 million to place the franchise tag on Moore, which is a pretty reasonable price for a top line safety. But now it appears that the Falcons and Moore will work on a long term deal, which will no doubt be more beneficial to both parties.
Not having to use the tag, particularly on Moore, shows the Falcons are doing the right thing in retaining the players they really want to, without having to resort to the franchise tag. Keeping a young quality player like Moore around for a number of years adds stability to the defense and ultimately makes him even more valuable.
Operating with star players under the cloud of one-year contracts isn’t the best way to do business, and is certainly not the best way to build trust and camaraderie in the locker room. If the Falcons can wrap up Moore for a few years, and figure out a way to possibly keep Grimes around (which may be the plan following the release of Dunta Robinson) their defensive secondary should be one of the strongest in the league in 2013.
Free agency begins on March 12, so hopefully Atlanta will have deals in place with Moore and Grimes, and possibly even OT Sam Baker before the carnage ensues.