Will the Vikings Use the Franchise Tag?

The Minnesota Vikings have been in offseason mode ever since their disappointing loss against the New York Giants in the postseason. On Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s agenda are multiple tasks surrounding the roster. The team has to get under the salary cap. They are currently about $23 million over the cap.

To get this done, the Vikings have to part ways with some players, especially long-term players of the purple team could leave the organization. Extending and restructuring contracts is another way to save some cap space. Once again, a few veterans could be asked to help the team from a business side. However, to have the best possible team in 2023, the team can’t afford to let all their free agents leave.

Will the Vikings Use the Franchise Tag?

Will the Vikings Use the Franchise Tag?
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

First of all, what is the franchise tag?

Each team can keep one free agent on the team without negotiating a contract by using the tag. It’s made for true “franchise players” or, in other words, players that are essential to the organization.

There are different types of tags. The most expensive one is the exclusive-rights franchise tag. It costs a team the average salary of the five highest-paid players at the same position, or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is higher. A player tagged with the exclusive rights tender can not negotiate with other teams. It’s mainly used for quarterbacks and extremely valuable players.

The next lower step is the non-exclusive tag. A player will receive a one-year deal for the average amount of the top five cap hits in the previous five years on the same position, or once again, the 120% rule. That player can negotiate a contract with other teams, but his old team, the team that tagged him, can match the offer. Does the team not match the offer, they will receive two first-round picks from the player’s new team. A price too high for most. It is the most used version of the franchise tag, as most players are not worth a couple of first-round selections in addition to a high salary.

The final tag is the transition tag. A player tagged with that receives a salary of the average of the top ten salaries at the same position in the previous season. The player can once again negotiate with other teams, and the old team can match it. However, the old team does not receive compensation if they don’t match the offer. The transition tag is rarely used.

Does a Viking Deserve the Tag?

The top free agents of the purple team are Garrett Bradbury and Dalvin Tomlinson.

Bradbury, a 2019 first-round selection, struggled in the first four seasons of his career but had a solid 2022 campaign. Now, his rookie contract is expiring, and he is looking for a new deal on the open market. Usually, offensive linemen get paid big in free agency because many teams are desperate for OL help.

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) prepares for the snap from center Garrett Bradbury (56) against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Bradbury’s deal is projected to be $18.75 million for three years, according to PFF’s contract expert Brad Spielberger. Spotrac projected his annual salary at almost $12 million per season.

His franchise tag, non-exclusive, would be $18,244,000 for one season — an absurd number. The problem is that it is the same for every offensive lineman, so it doesn’t differentiate between tackles, guards, and centers. For that reason, the Vikings would be foolish even to consider using the tag. The transition tag is worth $16,600,000. Re-signing their center in free agency is still possible.

Vikings Have 2 Free Agents
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (94) celebrates a tackle against the New York Giants during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Defensive tackle Tomlinson is in a similar situation. His non-exclusive franchise tag is $18,937,000, and the transition tag is $16,068,000. While he played well in both seasons since signing in Minnesota, he’s not worth elite defensive tackle money. PFF estimates his next contract at $11.75 million per year, Spotrac at $8.5 million. Re-signing Tomlinson is a possibility. Newly hired defensive coordinator Brian Flores will have a say in the decision.

The two cornerbacks, Patrick Peterson and Duke Shelley, are certainly worth pursuing, as the remaining depth on the Vikings roster only includes Andrew Booth, Cameron Dantzler, Akayleb Evans, and Kalon Barnes. Like Bradbury and Tomlinson, the two are no candidates for the franchise tag, the salary for cornerbacks is $18,140,000.

All 17 of the Vikings
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates with Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84), back, after he scores a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

The two 2019 rookies, Alexander Mattison and Irv Smith, are playing positions that aren’t paid as well. Smith’s salary under the tag would be $11,345,000, Mattison’s $10,091,000.

The Vikings will not use the franchise tag on their free agents. Instead, they’ll try to negotiate new contracts without the tag. The team simply doesn’t have a free agent who is elite at his position, so using the tag wouldn’t make sense.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt