March 3 is the last day for teams to place either a non-exclusive or exclusive franchise tag on one of their players. For those unfamiliar with both types of tags, here’s a quick overview from SportingCharts.com:
Exclusive Franchise tag
“…gives the team full negotiating rights on the player, meaning that the player is unable to negotiate a contract with any other team, but requires the team to pay the player a rate no less than the average salary of the top 5 salaries for that position in the current year or 120% of the players salary in the previous year, which ever is greater.”
Non-exclusive franchise tag
“…allows the player to negotiate contracts with other teams with their current team is given the right to match whatever contract they sign, if the team decides not to match the contract they are given two first-round picks as consideration. The contract salary formula for a non-exclusive Franchise Tag is based off the average of the last five years of salaries for the top 5 players at that position.”
General manager Howie Roseman has made it known that he doesn’t plan on using either of these tags. If he were to use it on anyone, though, you’d think it to be Cooper.
Cooper is a part of a deep free agent group of receivers that also consists of Anquan Boldin, Eric Decker, Julian Edelman, Jacoby Jones, Jeremy Maclin, Dexter McCluster, Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders, and Golden Tate.
There is speculation that Boldin will resign with the San Francisco 49ers. Cooper, along with Decker, is considered one of the top receivers to be had this offseason — and like Decker, he was the No. 2 receiver who benefitted from stellar play at the quarterback position. Both also benefitted from playing alongside great No. 1 receivers on the team. Cooper posted career numbers across the board by racking up 835 yards on 47 receptions, with ten of those receptions going for touchdowns.
Cooper, if franchised, would receive at least $10 million in guaranteed money for one season. That would take out almost half of the team’s cap space to keep just one player.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they have two receivers set to become free agents this year. Jeremy Maclin, who is coming off an ACL injury, will also be in the market for a new contract. Both players are unrestricted free agents and are free to sign with any team they chose. If they left, the Eagles would not be compensated for their departures.
According to CSNPhilly.com, Roseman has stated that bringing back both receivers isn’t out of the possibility, but it won’t be easy.
“Well, I think it is complicated, because you have guys that you want to have back,” Roseman said, “and also, what resources are you going to devote to that position with the guys who are already on the roster.”
With several of their young players already performing well, the Eagles priority may be to lock Cooper and Maclin up before their asking prices get too high.
The approach for the Eagles to dealing with Cooper is to let him play the market and let the market decide what his cost is – but not let him come to the table with a number in mind dictate the negotiations. This could become a problem, depending on who values Cooper as a receiver.
Coming off a solid year, and with teams needing receivers, who is willing to pay Cooper? Is Cooper viewed as a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver? What will he ask for in his upcoming contract?
As a No. 2 guy — such as Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams, Dallas’ Miles Austin or Miami’s Brian Hartline — Cooper may only get $6-$8 million a season. As a No. 1 receiver – similar to the likes of Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe, Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson or fellow Eagle Desean Jackson – he’d be looking more in the $10-$11 million range.
Some teams, like the Oakland Raiders, have very few players on their roster and a plethora of money to spend. They may overpay, or put out there what they are willing to pay for the players services, causing the Eagles to either lose the player or putting the player out of reach in terms of talking numbers.
Roseman would like to keep both receivers, but knowing that the price could be steep for Cooper, it may be cheaper to sign Maclin to a one year deal and hope he is able to overcome the ACL injury.
“You look at it in the draft, obviously a very strong position,” says Roseman “So I think … it’s a complicated situation but we’ve never ruled out bringing both of those guys back.”
Philadelphia should look into getting Maclin signed as soon as possible, especially as an “insurance policy”. The wide receiver productivity falls after the top three guys. Should Cooper and Maclin leave, Jason Avant would be in line to start opposite of Jackson. Maclin should be an easy signing, given that he’s said he’d like to stay in Philadelphia.
The Eagles may be able to find a replacement for Cooper in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. But what they’d give up in Cooper would be the known, while the draft would carry the weight of the unknown.