NFC South: Franchise players

Primer on franchise players

June, 16, 2011
With optimism rising on the labor front, the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information have sent out a free-agency primer to help us prepare for whenever the league year starts.

I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of that with you over the coming days to help us all get ready for what should be a very busy free-agent season. We’ll start with the franchise tag and, keep in mind, we don’t know with absolute certainty that the tags will be valid in the new agreement.

But the tag traditionally has been used to protect marquee players and that entails the offer of a one-year contract equal to the average of the top five salaries at that player’s position or 120 percent of that player’s previous year's salary, whichever is greater. Teams can designate a player as an “exclusive” or “non-exclusive” franchise player.

Here’s the definition on those two categories.

Exclusive franchise players: players who have been offered a one-year contract equal to the average of the top five salaries at their position for the current year or the average of the top five salaries at their position at the end of last season or 120 percent of their previous year's salary, whichever is greatest. Exclusive franchise players cannot sign with another club.

Non-exclusive franchise players: players who have been offered a one-year contract equal to the average of the top five salaries at their position at the end of last season or 120 percent of their previous year's salary, whichever is greater. Can negotiate with other clubs but current team has the opportunity to match any offer. If they do not, they will receive two first-round draft picks from player’s new team as compensation.

Prior to the lockout, 14 teams designated franchise players, including the Carolina Panthers with center Ryan Kalil. That ties the record, set in 2009, for the most use of the franchise tag since free agency began in 1993. Only Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick were given exclusive franchise tags.

Here’s a list of players who were given the franchise tag and whether or not they signed the tender.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

 Jeff Hixon /Allspor
 Bobby Hebert, the "Cajun Cannon," led the Saints to their first-ever playoff appearance.

Readers' pick: Bobby Hebert, QB

Talk about sentiment getting in the way of sense. That's what I think Saints fans did when they elected Bobby Hebert as the greatest player in franchise history.

Sure, Hebert was nicknamed "The Cajun Cannon'' and he was a Louisiana guy through and through. Give him credit for leading the Saints to their first-ever playoff appearance.

Hebert was a very nice quarterback, but the greatest player in team history? He only threw for 20 touchdowns in a season once and his best quarterback rating was 82.9. He also sat out the 1990 season in a contract dispute.

Granted, New Orleans' history is far from glorious and I'm not going to make a case for Archie Manning, another popular quarterback, who finished second in the voting. I will, however, make a case for linebacker Rickey Jackson, tackle Willie Roaf and running back Deuce McAllister. They should have finished higher in the voting and I'd take any one of the three at No. 1.

But I understand people like quarterbacks. Let's leave this one in limbo for now. Give Drew Brees, the current quarterback, a few more years with the Saints and there won't be any debate. A little more time is all Brees needs to become the greatest player in New Orleans history.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

 Derrick Brooks was an easy choice for greatest Buccaneer of all time.

Readers' pick: Derrick Brooks, LB

The fans have spoken and Derrick Brooks is the greatest player ever for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The real surprise (and crime) would have been if Brooks wasn't selected. This was the easiest choice in the NFC South.

In fact, I'll go ahead and say Brooks is -- by far -- the best player to ever play for any NFC South team and a sure-fire Hall of Famer. I ranked Brooks as the best player in franchise history earlier this summer and my rankings weren't much different than those of the fans.

The fans put Warren Sapp at No. 2. I had Sapp at No. 4 behind Lee Roy Selmon and Doug Williams, but I'm not going to argue much with their choice. Sapp probably will be a Hall of Famer and he was hugely instrumental in turning this franchise around.

The only minor disagreement I have with the fan voting is Mike Alstott at No. 4. I definitely think Alstott belongs in the top 10, but I think No. 4 is a few spots too high. I think Williams, John Lynch and Ronde Barber made bigger contributions to this franchise.

Atlanta Falcons: Franchise player

August, 18, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

 Allen Dean Steele/NFL
 Deion Sanders was voted the greatest player in Falcons history.

Readers' pick: Deion Sanders, CB

I read what the voters had to say and my first instinct was to argue. Really hard. Deion Sanders as the best player in Falcons' history? Come on. Sanders was nothing more than a traveling circus and he wasn't even in Atlanta that long.

But what's my alternative? Michael Vick? I can't -- and won't -- do that.

This is when it really kicks in that the Falcons don't exactly have a glorious history.

I'd like to make a case for Keith Brooking or Jessie Tuggle or even Tommy Nobis. They each went to a bunch of Pro Bowls. But they're linebackers and didn't come with a lot of flash.

I guess I have no choice to agree and go with Sanders. He was, after all, a great cover corner and return man. But he didn't have longevity with the franchise and he was an attention seeker.

There's a part of me that hopes Matt Ryan or Michael Turner or someone (anyone, please) on the current roster has a great career so we don't have to go with style over substance when we talk about the greatest Falcon.

 Daniel Plassmann/US PRESSWIRE
 Pro Bowler Steve Smith was named the greatest player in Carolina Panthers history.
Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Readers' pick: Steve Smith, WR

Steve Smith is the greatest player in the history of the Carolina Panthers, according to voting by fans. I have no desire to argue that because nobody else even belongs in the conversation.

Forget the off-field stuff with Smith for a moment. When it comes to what he's done on the field, no one else is remotely close. I also chose Smith No. 1 when I wrote about the greatest players in Carolina history back in July.

But I will disagree with the order of the rest of the top five in the fan voting. Julius Peppers is No. 2, John Kasay No. 3, Jake Delhomme No. 4 and Wesley Walls No. 5.

I think the Peppers' ranking is way too high. Yes, he's been very good at times. But he's also been very ordinary and only had 2 sacks last year when the team really needed him to step up. I also think it's a bit of a stretch to put Kasay at No. 3. That's no knock on Kasay. He's a good kicker, a good guy and he's been reliable for a long time. But, even a team that's only been around since 1995, shouldn't have a kicker as one of its top five players.

No argument here on Delhomme. But I will argue that putting Walls fifth is too low. I had him at No. 2. The reason? Walls was the heart of the offense in the team's early years. He put up some big numbers and was a major reason why the team went to the NFC Championship Game in only its second year.