Contract decisions are on NFL minds today as the deadline for franchising players comes at 4 PM. Teams who are unable to reach long-term agreements with a valuable member of their team, can retain the player by slapping the franchise tag on them. The franchise is for only one season at a time, but it keeps the team from losing an important commodity. If a team chooses to franchise a player, they must pay him the average salary of the five highest-paid players at that position from the previous season. However, if a player is already in the top five for salaries at his position, the team must give him a 20 percent pay increase. Such would be the case with Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, who Michael Felger of The Boston Herald reports will likely be franchised this afternoon. Vinatieri's salary of just over two million dollars in 2004 was the highest in the league amongst kickers, so, as Felger reports, he will be given a 20 percent raise to approximately two and a half million. This is the second time the Patriots will have franchised the clutch kicker, as he was tagged before the 2002 season, buying the team time to work out the three-year deal that has now come to an end.
USA Today's Larry Weisman looks at franchise situations throughout the league, also providing the top salaries at each position, and what the subsequent franchise tags would cost at each position.
One team with an interesting dilemma on its hands is the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have two marquee free agents in quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander. Seattle is more intent on keeping Hasselbeck, and will franchise the young quarterback if necessary. More ideal for the Seahawks would be reaching a long-term agreement with the Boston College product before 4 PM, enabling them to franchise Alexander, thus keeping both. ESPN.com is reporting that Seattle and Hasselbeck are very close to an agreement that would free up the franchise tag for the Pro-Bowl running back.
On the Patriots beat, The Boston Globe* and *USA Today* *report more generosity from team owner Robert Kraft. According to the reports, Kraft and his wife, Myra, will be in Jerusalem this week for the dedication of a football stadium he helped build for an Israeli flag football league. Kraft contributed $120,000 in 1999, for the conversion of the stadium for football use, and has just donated $500,000 for the installation of artificial turf.
ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli examines the Patriots offensive coordinator opening, and suggests it is likely to see head coach Bill Belichick assume a bigger role in the offensive doings. Belichick, often considered a defensive coach at heart, filled in as quarterbacks coach in 2002, after Dick Rehbein died unexpectedly on the eve of training camp.
Finally, Peter King of SportsIllustrated.com looks at the Buffalo Bills decision to release quarterback Drew Bledsoe with a reminder of how a similar move helped the Patriots three years ago. After all, it was the Patriots who sent Bledsoe to Buffalo for a first-round pick in 2002, freeing up the starting job unequivocally for Tom Brady. Obviously, that move worked out pretty well for New England.