Free Agency: The Final Domino of Player Empowerment by Cam Archer

What does the future hold for Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams...

Oct 11

A tale as old as time. A professional athlete at odds with his employer over proper compensation.

Green Bay Packers star wideout Davante Adams is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season. Contract talks with the Packers stalled around training camp, and both sides felt it was best to table things for now. The jersey swaps and “best landing spots” articles cannot be published fast enough, especially after Adams slipped up and said he would love to play with quarterback Derek Carr again.

Who knows, perhaps Adams decides after this season to contact the Oakland Raiders brass to work out a deal, reuniting him with his Fresno State teammate. On the other hand, perhaps the San Francisco 49ers lure him away from Lambeau Field come Spring.

Wait a minute. This is the NFL we’re talking about; we all know how this is going to go. Adams will either agree to a new deal, locking him up as a Packer for the remainder of his prime, or he’ll be the recipient of the most lopsided tool in sports: The Franchise Tag.

The Franchise Tag allows a team to retain any free agent on their roster for one year, paying them a salary based on the average of the top five players at the given position. However, this isn’t similar to a qualifying offer or restricted free agency in the NBA. If a player decides not to sign their Franchise Tag sheet, they can’t seek a better deal elsewhere. Adams would either sign or sit. And this isn’t a one-time fail-safe per player. Teams can franchise tag a player up to THREE times.

Consider this; first-round picks in the NFL sign four-year contracts. With the average talent being 21 years old when selected, that means they should see free agency around 26 years of age if they meet the expectations of their franchise. That is unless the team has an inkling that they may want to leave. A player could be tied to one team, whether it is their choice or not, until their age 30 season. Most players will go their whole career without truly experiencing a real free agency.

Can you recall the last time a Quarterback in their prime hit the free-agent market and shook the balance of the NFL? Hell, can you remember the last time ANY star in their prime was allowed to explore their options and decide where they wanted to play after fulfilling their contractual obligations to a team? Unfortunately, in the world of the National Football League, great players are only on the move when they’re considered a “cancer” to the locker room or damaged goods in need of reclamation.

Maybe Antonio Brown was onto something when he dyed his beard Hollywood Hogan colors to get out of Pittsburgh.  

Let’s check back in with the Pack. Reigning MVP of the league Quarterback Aaron Rodgers spent the better part of the offseason knowing that he no longer wanted to play in Green Bay. Unfortunately, the relationship between Rodgers and the front office soured to no return in the opinion of the California native. The Packer front office seems tired of Rodgers as well, but they’ll be damned if a player makes the rules. Rodgers is playing for the Packers this season, but that is only due to an alleged agreement that will see the front office help him facilitate an exit at year’s end.

But let’s be honest. If the Packers win a Super Bowl this year behind another stellar year from one of the most talented QBs we’ve ever seen, how quick will they be to give Rodgers what he wants?

And please, spare me the “Honor the contract” and “These guys make millions to play a game” rhetoric. Especially in a league where players can be cut with very few guarantees to their deals. How about we harp on some of these NFL clubs to “honor” those deals they cut bait on after one unsuccessful year?

And what if Dak Prescott was unable to return from the gruesome leg injury he suffered last season? Would it be right that Dallas never paid him his worth, choosing instead to penny-pinch on the deal for a QB plenty of teams would have paid top dollar for? Where is the “Honor” in that?

Yes, I know the NFLPA allows the franchise tag to stick around. However, if they genuinely wanted to fight it, they possibly could while making another ludicrous concession elsewhere.

But imagine how Football would drastically change without it.