Is Your QB Franchise Tag Worthy?

Updated: March 24th 2014

Much like Elaine on Seinfeld, who went around hoarding sponges and interviewing men to see who was “sponge worthy”, we all debate what is worthy of our time and money.  As a parent, I’m always debating what plans are worth paying for a babysitter.  You should be conducting similar analysis at the QB position in your Reality Sports Online league, so let’s take a look at the process an owner should go through to determine whether to use their Franchise Tag to keep their signal caller for another year.

First off, you have to ask yourself some fundamental questions about using your Franchise Tag on any expiring contract player, as you are committing to giving that player a one-year deal at the greater of (a) 120% of his previous year’s salary or (b) the average of the top 5 salaries at that player’s position for the current year (like the NFL you may use the tag again for a second year).

1)  Is the juice worth the squeeze? A franchise tag salary in most positions for a one-year deal is a lot of money.  You must be pretty confident that the player you are tagging is in for a big year and you have the cap space to address your other team needs. Do the math and find value.  For instance, the Tight End position may have a more reasonable franchise tag salary than the Wide Receiver position.

2)  Can I live with not having this player on my team next year? If you can’t see yourself throwing a player back into the Free Agency pond, even if that means paying him franchise tag money, then you probably should hold onto that player. Considering that the player is someone that may have been on your team for multiple years before being franchise eligible, you need to tread carefully on this one.  Know when to let go.  We are all football fans and have certain favorite players, but we are playing in dynasty leagues, which means our sense of strategy and competition is at a heightened level.

3)  How many pieces am I away from being a serious contender in my league?  If you are stacked at multiple positions and think that keeping this one player (even at the expense of the Free Agency Auction) will win you the title this year-remember that Flags Fly Forever.

4)  What kind of deal would this player command on the open market? If there is a good possibility of getting this player back in the Free Agency Auction on a multi-year deal with more favorable terms, then maybe you pass up using your franchise tag.

5)  How does this player fit into the dynamics of your league?  If your league scoring system is skewed to a certain position and this person has a relative advantage, consider using the tag on the player.  For instance, I’m in a league where QB’s who have high completion percentage are amongst the best fantasy points guys.

6)  Upside/Option Value? Perhaps this player is someone who has very high upside, and you’d rather have the option of cutting bait without a penalty at the end of the season if they don’t fulfill the upside.  In this case, the franchise tag may be a creative way to keep your talent if they perform without risking losing a player in Free Agency.

So, let’s get into the Quarterback position.  Let’s assume for starters that Brees, Rodgers, Luck, and Newton are signed to multi-year contracts.  We’ll put Matthew Stafford on the fringe of that too and for Top-5 average franchise purposes, let’s put Stafford in that mix.  We’ll also assume a 10 to 12 team league that starts one quarterback.

The No-Brainer Franchise Tag

Peyton Manning- If Peyton Manning was on your team in 2013, you were a contender in your league.  While there is a likely drop-off from historic levels, you probably took Manning on a one-year deal with concerns about his neck.  With a clean bill of health and with Manning not included in the Top 5 average multi-year deals, Manning not being the top paid QB in your league means a serious coup for you.  This is like having 20 in blackjack.  Tag him.

The Great Debates

Nick Foles- Fantasy owners loved the production last year.  In the 7 fantasy regular season games he played significant time in or started, Foles had 18 TDs and no INTs (granted 7 TDs were vs. the Raiders).  I’ve watched the tape and Foles got plenty lucky vs. Green Bay on underthrown balls and deflections that went for scores.  That said, he’s accurate (63% completion rate), poised and has a bevy of weapons back who will only get better and the team was missing the intermediate element at times last year that Jeremy Maclin can help with.  The only thing I’m skittish on is if his 2014 season resembles Colin Kaepernick’s, but the weapons make me more confident about Foles.  I think most would rather have him on a multi-year deal as his upside is high, but the franchise tag gives you 2nd year option value to cut bait if he disappoints.  If you’re in a league where QBs like RG3, Wilson, and Kaepernick are protected in addition to my list above and only a few teams need QBs, you may be able to get him on a better multi-year deal.  Thinking $20M a year would be his tag # in most leagues.  Tag him.

Colin Kaepernick- To really assess Kaep, I think you need to look at how he played in the playoffs as it was really the first time he had Crabtree at 100%.  The running totals are great there, but the turnovers are alarming and the completion % must get better.  I like the fact that he has a full year of weapons and think it would be wise that the 49ers get a tall stretch the field and big red-zone target like Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin in the draft.  What scares me more about Kaepernick (and I own him on a 3 year, $43.5m deal) is that in a 13 week fantasy season, he’s not startable vs. Seattle (twice) and a bye.  That’s 25% of the fantasy season and the NFC West has great defenses as well.  I think he’s the type that if you have on a multi-year deal, you expect a better 2014, but if you are thinking franchise tag, I just don’t see it.  Throw him back.

Russell Wilson- He just seems to have this intangible to go down as one of the best ever as a winner.  The Seahawks love to run and will probably mix in other backs a bit more to spell Beast Mode this year and they will throw bubble screens and really utilize Percy Harvin if he can stay on the field.  That said, Wilson only attempted 305 passes in the fantasy regular season and even if that number improves by 100, it is still way less than your average QB.  Wilson is probably a better NFL QB than a fantasy QB (think Troy Aikman), a guy you can start with confidence every week, but not one I think you’re paying the big bucks for unless you are in a deep, deep league.    Throw him back.

Others to Throw Back-RG3, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan