To tag, or not to tag, that is the question. The deadline for teams to designate players with the franchise tag looms on the horizon.
At this moment, 10 players have already been tagged, most notably wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running backs Ray Rice and Matt Forte. Several other teams are expected to use the tag before the Monday afternoon deadline. The question remains, will the Chargers be one of them? And if so, will they use the tag on receiver Vincent Jackson?
Chargers' general manager A.J. Smith continues to say publicly that the team is not likely to franchise Jackson. There are several reasons why using the tag on Jackson would be a poor decision, but doing so may be the only way to keep him in a Chargers' uniform for 2012.
First and foremost is the issue of money. Should the Chargers tag Jackson, they will owe him more than $13 million this season. The franchise figure for wide receivers in 2012 is roughly $9.4 million, but this amount does not apply to Jackson.
NFL rules dictate that a player designated with the franchise tag earn the average of the top five salaries at the player's position or 120 percent of the player's salary from the previous year, whichever is greater. For Jackson, the latter would apply.
Being tagged for a second consecutive season would entitle Jackson to 120 percent of his $11.4 million 2011 salary, a sum that would total approximately $13.7 million.
Second, there is the issue of having too many holes to fill. The Chargers' roster currently has more problems than a math book. With question marks on both lines, outside linebacker, strong safety and overall depth throughout the roster, it would be financially irresponsible to spend nearly $14 million on one player.
The third reason the Chargers shouldn't use the franchise tag on Vincent Jackson is because they could get better value using the tag on someone else.
Take center Nick Hardwick, for example. Under the franchise tag, Hardwick would make $9.4 million in 2012. While this would more than double his salary from 2011, Hardwick would remain with the Chargers and the team could use the residual $4.3 million to sign other players.
Taking all those things into consideration, there is still a very compelling reason to support tagging Jackson. That reason is control.
Using the franchise tag on Jackson would allow the Chargers to maintain his rights; it would keep the team in control of Jackson's immediate future. They could simply pay him $13.7 million to be their receiver for 2012. They could use his rights to trade for draft picks. They could use the tag as leverage to sign Jackson to a multi-year contract.
For those reasons, Jackson and his agents still believe the Chargers will ultimately use the tag to prevent the receiver from hitting the open market.
The clock is ticking. The deadline is approaching. To tag, or not to tag, that is the question.