The Raiders don’t have many players hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason, even fewer worthy of franchise-tag consideration. It’s entirely possible that number whittles to zero.
The franchise tag has become a team-friendly tool to keep top talents in house, though one-year’s compensation comes at a steep price. A franchise-tagged player gets the average of the top five salaries at that player’s position.
There’s an exclusive franchise tag where a player is locked in with his team, and a non-exclusive tag that allows a team to match an opposing offer sheet or receive two first-round picks. That’s typically a poison pill that keeps teams away.
There’s also a transition tag which pays the average of the Top 10 salaries at a position but only allows the incumbent team to match an offer sheet.
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Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has used a franchise tag once in his Oakland tenure, on safety Tyvon Branch in 2012. He can apply one this offseason starting Tuesday afternoon. The window closes on March 1.
It seems extremely unlikely the Raiders would use a tag this offseason. The Silver and Black certainly have the cash – if the salary cap matches the recently reported $155 million figure, they could have $70-plus million in cap space – but don’t have many worthy options.
Left tackle Donald Penn is the only true impact starter ready to hit the open market. He expressed frustration with the pace of contract talks in a conversation with CSNCalifornia.com, though, according to an earlier estimation by CBS’ Joel Corry, an offensive lineman comes with a $13.7 million franchise tag. That price seems a bit steep for Penn, but would help lock down a crucial offensive line spot, and allow the Raiders to focus on other areas. It still seems unlikely the Raiders would go down that road.
It could happen with punter Marquette King, who would command a relatively low estimation of a $4.5-million franchise tag. The Raiders seem confident they can work out a multi-year pact before free agency begins, so a tag shouldn’t be required to reach a deal.
Here’s a complete list of 2016 unrestricted Raiders free agents:
OT Khalif Barnes
C/G Tony Bergstrom
LS Thomas Gafford
WR Andre Holmes
P Marquette King
S Taylor Mays
LT Donald Penn
WR/KR Jeremy Ross
OLB Aldon Smith*
WR Rod Streater
OL J'Marcus Webb
* -- Smith was suspended for at least a calendar year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He must be reinstated before signing a new contract with any team.