Today is the first day of the 2011 offseason that NFL teams can start using the franchise tag on players. In other words, it's the day when the biggest potential names in free agency get taken off the market. Chargers WR Vincent Jackson is likely to receive the franchise tag from San Diego. That means the St. Louis Rams will not have a chance to sign him via free agency. Remember early last season while Jackson held out, the Rams were said to have a tentative agreement with Jackson, but a steep asking price from San Diego scuttled the deal.
Getting the franchise tag would pay Jackson roughly $10 million for one season, more than the $3.2 million the Chargers offered last year. By keeping VJ for one more season and then letting him walk, they'll receiver a compensatory draft pick next year.
This could also mean that San Diego will be unable to re-sign WR Malcom Floyd, who is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this year. Floyd is older than Jackson and doesn't have the same track record. However, the Wyoming product has shown some very real ability in the Chargers potent downfield passing attack. Injuries limited him this year and his production dropped off once Floyd came back to the lineup. The tall, rangy receiver could definitely give the Rams something they lack. A stunning 82 percent of the passes thrown to Floyd were 10 or more yards downfield. Floyd would also be a cheaper free agent than Jackson, though as the market thins it will naturally mean over paying him.
Last week, reports surfaced that Minnesota would give WR Sidney Rice the transition tag, a cousin of the franchise tag, thus thinning the the upper tier of free agent receivers even more. That happens every year. Teams make an effort to keep their best players, naturally, thinning out the free agent market.
Another story to watch here is just how the franchise tag drama plays out. Owners are expected to use the tags and the league says they have every right. The NFLPA, however, says otherwise, claiming that without a labor deal in place the tag is null and void. Teams will tag, the union will fight it and it won't be settled until we get a new CBA., which might be awhile after talks blew up yesterday and today's meetings got canceled.