From left, Cardinals director of football administration Mike Disner, General Manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians before a game this season.
Teams across the NFL can start applying the franchise tag to free-agents-to-be starting this week. The Cardinals won't be one of those teams.
That's no surprise, given the free agent list the Cards will have in March, but General Manager Steve Keim confirmed Wednesday the team will not be using the tag this offseason.
Since the NFL introduced the franchise tag in 1993 the Cards have been among the teams who have used it the most
– nine – but that use has slowed in recent years. The last time the team used it was 2012 on defensive lineman Calais Campbell, buying time to get Campbell signed to a long-term extension a couple months later.
Before that, linebacker Karlos Dansby was tagged in both 2008 and 2009 before he left as a free agent.
The franchise tag is a one-year tender offer – guaranteed once the player signs it – that is either the average of the top five salaries at a player's position or 120 percent of the player's previous salary, whichever is greater. Teams can also use the transition tag, which is the average of the top 10 salaries. In both cases, the tagging team can match any contract offer from another team. If the player is franchise tagged, a team that signs him away must also give the original team two first-round picks.
For that latter reason, players who are tagged almost never change teams.
There are many reasons the Cardinals haven't used the tag since Keim became General Manager. The team has
been proactive in extending the players it deems as part of the long-term core, guys that the franchise cannot afford to let reach the open market.
When Keim speaks of the good job the Cards have done cleaning up the dead money on the salary cap, it goes directly to this situation – re-signing players the Cardinals know will be around, and limiting the length and money of the rest of the roster, retaining flexibility.
Using the franchise tag can upend that philosophy.
"Look at those (tag) numbers, they can be outrageous," Keim said Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7. "It makes a (long-term) deal difficult to do, because now all of a sudden you are negotiating off that franchise number. That is really a concern, when you start negotiating based off that salary when you don't think that player should command that salary."
With the salary cap expected to climb another $10 million or $12 million this season, it's likely that most of the Cardinals' free agents-to-be will end up reaching free agency in an attempt to test the market.
As for the possibility that the Cardinals could make a run at a tagged player from another team in a quest to find the dynamic pass rusher they crave, Keim said it was unlikely give both the two first-round picks and the giant contract it would cost.
"That's not the way we are wired," Keim said.
Images of the Cardinals defenders with interceptions in 2015