On Friday, it was announced that the Redskins had placed the franchise tag on soon-to-be free agent Fred Davis. The contract numbers have yet to be calculated, but it boils down to an opportunity for the team to keep a star-quality player in a situation that protects them against off-the-field indiscretions.
With the way he performed in 12 games last season, the Redskins know what kind of value he provides to the offense. After Cooley went down early in the season, Davis brought stability to the tight end position, putting up career highs in starts (12), receptions (59) and yards (796). He also grabbed three touchdowns.
He was leading the team in each of those categories before he was suspended in Week 13 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, ending his season.
Had Davis finished the season on his current pace, he would been only the sixth tight end in NFL history to have at least 78 receptions, 1,060 yards and a 13.0 yards-per-catch average.
This deal makes sense for both sides, as the Redskins like the player that Davis can be, and he has an opportunity to rebuild his value and reputation. Essentially, a win-win for both sides.
And it’s a maneuver that hasn’t been executed very often for the Redskins franchise. Since the franchise tag’s introduction to the collective bargaining agreement in 1993, the Redskins have used the tag on two other players, one of them twice.
In 1997, the situation was far different with talented defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, who had had a big contract season the year before. The former first-rounder, acquired from the Rams for the sixth overall pick in 1996, finished with 68 tackles, three sacks and two passes defensed.
According to Redskins’ general manager Charley Casserly, Gilbert wanted to get paid, the Redskins wanted to pay him, but the two sides were far apart (via Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News):
“If you’re good enough and you sit out, you’re still going to make a lot of money the next year…We had an open line of communication the whole time, but sometimes there wasn’t a lot to talk about.”
Casserly admitted the team “couldn’t rationalize paying” Gilbert what he wanted and slapped the franchise tag on him. Subsequent negotiations stalled as well.
As a result, Gilbert sat out the entirety of the 1997 season. In 1998, he was tagged again, and rather than deal with another contentious negotiation period, the Redskins shipped him to Carolina for two first-round picks.
Fun fact: Gilbert is uncle to Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. Not surprisingly, Revis told the New York media that he was prepared to sit out last season unless his franchise tag situation was resolved.
The other instance of Redskins franchise tagging was on cornerback Champ Bailey before the 2004 season. Coming off of four-consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, Bailey was headed for a big payday, and the Redskins had a decision to make.
The Redskins placed the tag on Bailey, who threatened to boycott the season if left unresolved. The Redskins reportedly gave him permission to seek a trade, and he found a partner in Mike Shanahan’s Denver Broncos. The Redskins got a franchise running back in Clinton Portis, and the Broncos enjoyed one of the top cornerbacks of his era.
Isn’t it nice when things work out for everyone?
Considering that Davis is unlikely to find market value for his services at this time, it would not be surprising to see him stay put and play out his one season in Washington. It makes too much to both sides, unless another team unexpectedly comes calling.