The deadline for NFL teams to sign their franchised players to a long-term contract has passed.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe remains unsigned, meaning that if he is to play this season, he will have to do so under the franchise tag (expected to be around $9.5 million for wide receivers in 2012).
While Bowe has given no indication that he will sit this season and says he will be at training camp, it begs the question as to why both sides haven’t been able to settle on a deal that will keep Bowe in Kansas City for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of who is more at fault, the lack of a long-term deal shouldn’t worry Chiefs fans too much just yet.
If a deal isn’t reached next offseason, the Chiefs can use the tag on Bowe once more. However, this option is not ideal in that, unlike this year with only Bowe and Brandon Carr as the huge chips, next offseason will include left tackle Branden Albert, defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, punter Dustin Colquitt and linebackers Jovan Belcher and Brandon Siler as potential franchise tag candidates.
Although Bowe is the biggest name of that group, he isn’t necessarily the most important to what the Chiefs are trying to accomplish; this could be the primary reason for the lack of urgency to throw tons of cash his way.
The potential emergence of Jon Baldwin could also be holding the Chiefs back.
The franchise tag allows the team to not put too much stock in Bowe, while being able to see what they have in Baldwin for a full season.
If Baldwin shows he can be a top target, Bowe becomes less important to the Chiefs’ agenda of running the football, being merely efficient in the passing game and playing a hard-nosed defense. However, if he doesn’t take a decent leap forward in his second season, the focus should then turn back to keeping Bowe in Kansas City.
While the player oftentimes sees the franchise tag as a slap in the face, it should be understood that its primary function is to buy both sides more time to make the best decision possible. In this case, it could benefit both the Chiefs and Bowe.
As noted, the Chiefs will be able to better gauge where they stand as it relates to Bowe’s services. However, if the wide receiver is able to approach his 2010 numbers (72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns), his price tag will keep going up.
But if the Chiefs get that kind of production out of him, the one year will be worth it if he helps them bring back the AFC West title and a postseason victory or two to Kansas City.
With the motivation to keep performing and prove he is worthy of a hefty long-term contract, Bowe’s 2012 season could benefit both him and the Chiefs in a major way, regardless of how the story unfolds beyond this year.