Among the many topics discussed at the press conference from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith at 2011 Super Bowl was the franchise tag.
The NFL has told teams it can start using the franchise tag starting on February 10 and continuing through February 24, which is standard operating procedure under a normal year. This, however, is not a normal year with the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring on March 4.
Smith told reporters at his Thursday press conference that the NFL can do what it wants with the franchise tag but they feel it's meaningless. "Our position is you can franchise anyone you want by whatever date you want. But if there is no CBA, the franchise tag would be meaningless."
The differences come from language in the CBA and this was highlighted during the press conference. A reporter asked Smith on what grounds does the NFLPA feel they can challenge the use of the franchise tag considering "it appears [the NFL is] afforded that luxury in the CBA?" Smith shot back: "Actually it's not. It appears they're not so let's get that clear."
The NFL interprets that as the franchise tag being available because the CBA doesn't expire until March 4 therefore applying the franchise tag is acceptable before then. Smith, though, apparently argues that the words "during the term of this agreement" indicates the franchise tag, which would be applied to players for the 2011 season, doesn't matter because there is no agreement next year.
Most league observers feel the franchise tag will be in the next CBA so, from my view, this argument is a bit of a moot point. A deal will get done (eventually) and it will (more than likely) include the franchise tag.