Could the Atlanta Falcons use the franchise tag in 2013?


August 16, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive back Brent Grimes (20) on the sidelines during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Georgia Dome. The Bengals beat the Falcons 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, the Atlanta Falcons used their franchise tag to prevent cornerback Brent Grimes from leaving in free-agency, but also without committing to a long-term contract with him. It guarantees the player’s contract for that season, but doesn’t provide long-term stability. In short, it allows a team to keep key players from leaving in free-agency, without locking that team into contracts that conflict with the direction a team may choose to go.

Obviously, the tag was a double-edged sword for the 2012 Falcons. They tagged Grimes, which prevented him from leaving in free-agency. It also didn’t help having him on the team, as he was hurt for the majority of the season with a knee injury. But it also kept them from investing big money in a player who could be injured or is susceptible to injury.

You can see the dilemma, especially if the player is a high-impact one at a high-demand position. In 2013, the Falcons will have several players reaching free-agency. Most notably, those are LT Sam Baker and SS William Moore.

Could the Falcons legitimately tag either of these players? Would their contracts be monumentally cost prohibitive for the long term? Is there a health reason they shouldn’t be offered a long-term contract? Are they in extremely high demand from other teams?

Sam Baker had some health issues from the beginning of his career, and especially in 2011, but looked great in 2012. He’s not spectacular, but I have no doubt the Falcons would like to have him back in 2013. I don’t think there are many teams dying to throw loads of money at him, so the Falcons would probably give him a reasonably sized contract for probably four years. I think Atlanta has been very loyal to Baker, more than most expected them to be, so he will likely stay in town for far less than the $9 Million dollar franchise tag. If he decided to walk, I think the Falcons could sign Jake Long, the former Miami Dolphin, for only $1-2 Million more. Atlanta wouldn’t tag Baker.

But Moore is a different story. He’s been an outstanding player for the 2012 team, registering 75 tackles, a forced fumble, a sack, and 4 interceptions. He was really good in the box, and showed great coverage skills. But here’s the catch; he only played in 12 of their games because of injuries. None of them seemed to be career threatening, but he didn’t play.

So on one hand you have a very productive player who can play well in the box, as well as doing a good job in coverage. That’s something nearly every team in the league is looking for; a player who can cover deep well, and can also hit. The Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Bucs come to mind as two teams who would be desperate for a player like Moore. But on the other hand, he has injury risks, which would reduce his value on the free-market, whether that be with another team or with the Falcons.

The projected 2013 franchise tag numbers for the safety position is about $6.5 Million. I think that’s very close to his true value, but teams would be willing to offer much more than that on the free-market. Since Moore would then ask far higher from the Falcons, it would behoove them to place the franchise tag on him. It would give them one year to free up cap space without tearing apart their defense, while also protecting them from any injury issues