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Next franchise-tag battle could be three-tag limit


Now that arbitrator Stephen Burbank has ruled that franchise tags stack when applied to the same player by different teams, the next big question under Article 10 of the labor deal is whether a player can be limited by the franchise tag more than three times in his career.

The CBA says nothing about the use of a franchise tag on a given player more than three times. That could invite an argument by the NFLPA and any given player who hopes to avoid a fourth career application of the franchise tag that it’s simply not possible.

The NFL would argue that, because the CBA contains no prohibition on the use of the franchise tag a fourth time, it can be used a fourth time, and beyond. The NFLPA would argue that, because the CBA does not expressly contemplate the use of the franchise tag a fourth time, it can’t be applied to any player more than three times.

Given Tuesday’s ruling, which applied a narrow view of the CBA that benefits players and makes use of the franchise tag more cumbersome for teams, it wouldn’t be a surprise for arbitrator Stephen Burbank to rule that no player may be tagged more than three times.

It also wouldn’t be a surprise if that’s the next issue dropped on Burbank’s docket.

Now that Saints quarterback Drew Brees has obtained a ruling on the hypothetical use of the franchise tag in 2013, why not raise the stakes and seek a ruling that, after 2013, the Saints couldn’t use the tag on Brees again?

At least in this context, the dice seem to be hot for the union. Brees and the NFLPA should give them another roll.

Then again, the NFLPA already has secured a major victory. If the tag can be used a fourth time, the player would be entitled to yet another 44-percent raise. For Brees, that translates to a one-year salary and cap number of $33.94 million in 2014. There’s no way any team could be competitive with that much cap space tied up in one player, which means there’s no way the Saints would use the franchise tag on Brees for the fourth time in his career.