NFL teams have until March 3 to designate Franchise or Transition players. Would the New York Giants use the Franchise Tag to keep wide receiver Hakeem Nicks from hitting the free-agent market next month?
The answer to that question is almost certainly going to be 'no.'
Former NFL agent and current salary cap expert Joel Corry has estimated that the franchise tag for wide receivers in 2014 will be $11.539 million. Corry assumes a salary cap of $126.5 million, which actually seems high. If Corry is right, that means the Giants would be devoting roughly 9.1 percent of their salary cap space to Nicks.
Why would they do that for a player who has not played well since the 2011 season and, frankly, seemed more interested in protecting himself for free agency during the 2013 season than in producing on the field for his team?
Corry listed Nicks among 10 players who could be franchised, but said "History suggests that the Giants will let Nicks hit the open market."
That leads to the question of how the rest of the NFL will view Nicks if and when he hits the open market. He is only 26, but has caught just 53 and 56 passes the past two seasons after putting up 79 and 76 catches in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The answer depends on who you ask, and for teams around the NFL what they see when they look at Nicks.
Do they see a guy who can still be a No. 1 receiver? Or, do they see a guy who, despite his relative youth, has begun to lose a little bit?
"When I look at Nicks I think he's in that transitional bubble stage," said Ted Sundquist, former general manager of the Denver Broncos. "Do I as a general manager reach out and take a shot at this guy and make the investment that he's asking me to make in him or am I seeing a guy who truly is going to start sliding on the back side?"
During a recent conversation, Sundquist said he thinks teams will be leery of lavishing a rich, long-term contract on Nicks.
"I would be hard-pressed, really hard-pressed, to give him the type of money that I think he wants," Sundquist said. "To even put him into the role of being your primary guy which, when you spend that type of money you're almost forced to as an organization make him your primary guy.
"Can he be that guy? Based upon what I've seen not only in ‘13, but in ‘12 there would be question marks there.
"I would be really hard-pressed as a general manager to really want to do that. I would force my pro personnel department to prove to me that this guy is going to get back on track and that this guy can make the receivers that I already have on my football team better players.
"Can Hakeem be that type of guy? I don't think so, not based on what I've seen."
The agent perspective, in this case represented by Corry, paints a different picture. Corry said Nicks' lack of production "may not affect him as some suspect" on the open market.
Teams might look at '13 as an anomoly," Corry told me. "The guy is still very young. My guess is somebody pays him and it won't be the Giants."
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