The Chicago Bears, along with the NFL’s other 31 teams, can start placing any variation of the franchise tag on their own players starting today at 3 p.m. Because it doesn’t have to be done immediately, teams can use the idea of using the tag as they go about their negotiations. We discussed the different types of tags here and how they could impact cornerback Kyle Fuller.
One area we didn’t dive into too deeply was the concept of the sparsely used transition tag, which is arguably the option that could make the most sense for both Fuller and the team.
The transition tag works a bit like the non-exclusive franchise tag, wherein a team must offer a player (at least) the average of the top-10 salaries at his position for the previous year or 20 percent more than the player’s salary from the previous year, whichever is greater. Because Fuller was still playing on his rookie deal, it will be an average salaries of cornerbacks in 2017. Using to OverTheCap.com’s cornerback contracts as our guide, that number comes out to an estimated $12.5 million.
And much like the non-exclusive franchise tag, Fuller would be able to negotiate a contract with other teams. This would give the Bears a right of first refusal, which would allow them to match the offer. But unlike the non-exclusive franchise tag, the transition tag doesn’t come with compensation. Bummer.
What could make the transition tag a win-win for both sides is the idea of a tag-and-trade scenario. It’s something the Washington Redskins were rumored to be exploring with quarterback Kirk Cousins before their acquisition of Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs. NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler explains how it would have worked, which put the wheels in motion to dive into a situation where it could be applied to Fuller and the Bears.
Follow me for a moment.
It all starts with the Bears placing the transition tag on Fuller (obviously). From there, Fuller’s agent would then receive permission to talk about a deal with any of the league’s other 31 teams. After that, Fuller comes to a deal with a team, but doesn’t sign the offer sheet that would immediately trigger a seven-day period in which the Bears have to decide whether to match or let Fuller walk. So instead of Fuller signing the offer sheet, he would return to the Bears and sign the transition tag offer. With that water under the bridge, the two teams could come to an agreement on the trade and Fuller can sign a new deal with his new team.
It takes a little bit of an imagination to see two teams pulling off such a complicated move, but it’s not completely out of the question. The Bears would get some much-needed compensation, perhaps in the form of draft picks and Fuller would get a big-money contract with a new team.
This isn’t to say we want the Bears to part ways with their top cornerback, a player they drafted and developed over the last four years. It would be a bit of a gut punch to see former draft picks develop in Chicago only to star elsewhere in back-to-back seasons. But if push comes to shove, at least we know there are other options that could benefit both sides.