This kind of thing happens all the time in the NFL. Teams use their franchise tag on players every season.
When a long-term deal isn’t reached between both sides by the deadline, the player either signs the one-year tender—playing for the average yearly salary of the top five paid players at their respective position for that season—or the player holds out, using his absence as leverage to force a trade or to skip a large portion of training camp.
The projected $9.5 million that Bowe will make this year under the franchise tag indicates that holding out into the season would be a huge financial mistake. Not to mention that he still has something to prove to the Chiefs and the rest of the NFL in the way of being one of the top pass-catchers in the league, resulting in the much larger payday that he seeks.
The Chiefs are truly in the power seat here. While they need him for their offense to run at full strength, the team knows that Bowe’s future is very dependent on this season. And with him under team control in 2012—and possibly 2013 if they decide to tag him again—Bowe is virtually out of options.
The ironic thing about the Chiefs’ stance on Bowe is that they value him enough to demand top return if they were to trade him, but aren’t willing to pony up the cash to reflect those sentiments in terms of his free-agent market value. In reality, Bowe is probably worth somewhere in the middle.
Both the Chiefs and Bowe stand to receive the best of both worlds this season though.
The Chiefs get an even hungrier Bowe to help them compete for an AFC West title and to help expedite fellow wideout Jon Baldwin’s development in the NFL, something that will prove to be very important if this is Bowe’s last year with the team.
Bowe will get another year—while still young—as the team’s top target to show the entire league what he is capable of doing.
He is obviously worth more on the open market than he is to the Chiefs. So if Bowe can approach his 2010 numbers of 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns, his value will only increase while an injury is the only thing that would weaken his chances of cashing in.
Knowing that Bowe’s future hinges on the 2012 season and that he will do whatever it takes to prove he is worthy of a hefty long-term contract, the Chiefs need only to endure the wide receiver missing a portion of training camp because that is all the leverage he has at this point.