Chad Greenway became the latest NFL player to have the franchise tag placed on him when the Vikings elected to use it on the linebacker today. That means the Vikings will not be able to use the designation on wide receiver Sidney Rice, who also stands to become a free agent depending on what happens with the collective bargaining agreement.
The decision by the Vikings means at this point Greenway will be in line to receive a one-year contract offer that is worth the average of the top five salaries at linebacker or 120 percent of the player's 2010 salary, whichever is greater. That would mean Greenway could be in line to make more than $10 million next season. The Vikings also have the ability to discuss a long-term extension with Greenway, while continuing to hold his rights.
"I would say my initial reaction is I'm excited to be a Viking for at least another year," said Greenway, who was informed of the decision by coach Leslie Frazier this morning. "Obviously, I'm hoping to get a long-term deal done when a CBA is reached because I want to be a Viking my whole career. I'm excited to play for Coach Frazier and [linebackers coach] Mike Singletary, Coach Pagac again. I have great teammates and am excited to be here."
While several teams have used the franchise tag but things could get dicey. The expiration of the CBA at 11:01 p.m. March 3 means it's not clear if the franchise tag will even exist when a new agreement is settled upon. The NFL Players Association contends the franchise designations will not be valid when the CBA expires.
If there is a lockout, as many expect, NFL teams and players won't be able to negotiate at all during that period. During an ordinary year, it's likely the Vikings would have gotten a long-term extension done with Greenway last season, but the team put almost all contract discussions on hold because of the potential for a lockout and the uncertainty that was caused.
Greenway had the non-exclusive franchise tag put on him. That means he could eventually negotiate with other teams but the Vikings would maintain the right of first refusal to match an offer sheet given to Greenway within seven days. If the Vikings did match, they would keep Greenway. If the Vikings elected not to match, they would receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.
Greenway said that his agent, Marvin Demoff, and Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski have had some discussions but those talks have been more about where each side stands and "not necessarily about getting a contract done."
Greenway, 28, led the Vikings this season with 149 tackles, including 10 for loss, and had one sack. The 17th-overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Iowa, Greenway made $3.17 million in 2010. That was the final season in a five-year, $13.6 million rookie contract that included $7.42 million in guarantees. Greenway missed his entire rookie season after suffering a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in the preseason. He hasn't missed a game in the four seasons since, starting 63 of 64 regular-season games and three of three playoff games.