CBAWatch: Franchise/transition players

Many of you have asked about the likely changes to this offseason if the NFL loses its salary cap, as expected. Rather than hash through the entire litany in one post, I'd like to break down the issues as timing warrants.

We have just such an opportunity Thursday, which marks the first day teams can use their franchise tag to protect a player from leaving in free agency. Under the new system, teams will be able to tag a second player -- using the "transition tag" rules. Previously, teams could use one tag or the other but not both.

As with many of the pending rule changes, players will lose some of their freedom of movement in exchange for working in an uncapped environment. That would be the case if teams decide to place tags on two players.

After reviewing the list of likely free agents in the NFC North, I'm not sure either tag will come into play for us this offseason.

Some of you have wondered if Green Bay should place one of their tags on linebacker Aaron Kampman, who is recovering from knee surgery but might not be a perfect fit for their 3-4 scheme. A franchise tag would put the Packers in position to receive some compensation should Kampman want to sign elsewhere, and a transition tag would give them a chance to match any offer.

But tagging Kampman during his rehabilitation would be risky. The franchise value for linebackers is $9.68 million and the transition value is $8.373 million. Once tagged, a player can sign the contract at any time. The deal is fully guaranteed. I don't know if Kampman would sign before seeking other offers, but the Packers would have to be prepared for that.

Even in an uncapped year, would you commit more than $8 million to Kampman in 2010 if you were the Packers? I'm not sure I would.

Another example is Minnesota tailback Chester Taylor. The Vikings could tag him to restrict his movement, but at what cost? The franchise tag for running backs is $8.156 million and the transition tag is $7.151 million. The Vikings' best chance for retaining Taylor, if they want to, is to negotiate an extension before free agency begins.

We will monitor the situation throughout, but the changes in franchise/transition rules might not have a big impact in the NFC North.