Will LA Rams use Franchise/Transition tags tomorrow, Feb. 23rd?

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

LA Rams general manager Les Snead has a big decision to make, along with the coaching staff of the LA Rams. Will the Rams designate any player with either the Franchise or Transition tags? If so, then who?  And why is that even important?

Well, time flies when you are having fun. And so far, we must be having one helluva good time because the first day to use either the Franchise or Transition tags is February 23, 2021. The period to use either tag will last until March 9, 2021, at 1:00 pm PT. Eight days later, the 2021 NFL Year and Free Agency begin on March 17, 2021, at the same 1:00 pm PT.

Historically, the LA Rams have not used either tag, as it would create an adversarial relationship between a player hopeful to sign a lucrative multi-year contract with another team. For the Rams purposes hoping for awarded compensatory draft picks the following year, it somewhat defeats the purpose, don’t you think?

But this is a unique year, and circumstances are a bit, how shall we say, peculiar?  The NFL salary cap for 2021 has dropped significantly. Many players plan to sign one-year deals to circumvent the frugality of this year.  But a one-year deal will do very little for the LA Rams compensatory pick situation unless they are very lucrative indeed.

So it could be a sound strategy to sign a key player with the help of a franchise or transition tag.  The tag is designed to provide teams a way to limit the mobility of one of its upcoming free agents. So how do they work?

The Exclusive Franchise Tag is the most expensive and least frequently used. The player is guaranteed a one-year deal that is calculated as the average for the top five paid players at that position. It limits the player to negotiate only with one team.  To determine the value of a one-year deal and what it projects to be for the 2021 season, you can check out the estimates at OverTheCap.com.

The Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag is less expensive and more commonly used. It averages the past five exclusive franchise tag salaries by position. For the lesser cost, this does not prevent the free agent player from negotiating with any team. Instead, it provides the originating team the Right of First Refusal – or simply the right to match any other offers. If the team declines to do so, the originating team will receive two first-round picks as compensation from the signing team.  The coast is so prohibitively high that few if any teams will poach a player from another team with this designation.

The Transition tag is less expensive yet, and it is calculated using the average of the top 10 players at the position. It operates in much the same way as the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag, but with no compensation, if the originating team declines to match another team’s offer.  You can check out the estimates by position at OverTheCap.com.

Who might the LA Rams use a Franchise or Transition tag on? Well, the first player to jump out is veteran safety John Johnson III. We have lobbied for the Rams to do so, as the market for safety is still somewhat economical to designate him with a Franchise Tag. Even a Transition tag ensures that either Johnson gets a lucrative deal, or the Rams can match it and he can try again next year.

The Rams have used a tag on the safety twice in the past. In fact, the LA Rams have used the franchise tag nine times in the past. Those instances were:

1998: Cornerback Ryan McNeil
2001:  Defensive end Kevin Carter
2003-05: (3X) Offensive tackle Orlando Pace
2009: Safety O.J. Atogwe
2016-17: (2X) Cornerback Trumaine Johnson
2018: Safety LaMarcus Joyner

So there is a historic precedent for doing so.

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Is this the year that the Rams use a tag?  If so, who will they designate? We may all find out in 24 hours.