Playing Chicken with Clay
by Paul Wanecski
The Miami Dolphins are betting on themselves this offseason with the anticipated signing of Ndamukong Suh’s NFL record setting contract for a defensive player along and the 5th year option they are expected to pick up on QB Ryan Tannehill, which will skyrocket his pay above $15 million next year (and will be the starting block for a contract extension), it was a bit of a surprise to see the team apply the Transition Tag on TE Charles Clay (See Article about Transition Tag Here for all the parameters on what that means).With lots of money tied up in other players in future years, the Buffalo Bills can play a game of chicken with the division rival Dolphins.
The Suh contract is one that will have a ripple effect on the organization for years to come. It is a big commitment that could impact the way the team goes about free agency for the next 5 seasons. Not only will free agency be hampered by such a massive deal, the team may struggle to retain free agency eligible players who will be able to chase down more lucrative contracts with other teams.
What the Transition Tag does for a team is provides an initial offer for a 1 year contract with a player as well as allows other teams to negotiate and offer that player another contract. At that point, if the player receives several offers from other teams, they may select only one to return to his current organization to match. If they choose not to match the offer, then the team who offered that contract is given rights to the player and no additional compensation exchanges hands. Basically, it allows other teams to negotiate a contract you can choose to accept or reject.
Since the Bills are said to be looking to sign another offensive weapon at the TE position, they could really put the screws to a team that they have to face twice a year. The Dolphins are not in a favorable position financially anyway so the choice to make an offer to Clay is a gamble on both ends.
We can liken this to the Buffalo Sabres and Thomas Vanek back in July of 2007. Vanek was among the top 3 players on the roster for the Sabres at the time, however, he had earned the right to be a restricted free agent. The way this is handled is in the NHL is similar enough to the NFL process, so we can leave everything equal. The Edmonton Oilers decided to drop a bomb on the Sabres by offering Vanek, who was 23 at the time, a seven-year, $50 million offer. The Sabres had lost three players to free agency already that offseason and just couldn’t afford to lose Vanek too. The Oilers didn’t miss the opportunity to handcuff the Sabres, which they did match to retain Vanek. This caused tidal waves of emotions and anger through the streets of Buffalo for years.
This example, although in a different sport, shows just how badly teams will work to improve odds of winning. With the salary cap in the NFL, placing the Transition Tag can be dangerous to a team that doesn’t recognize the strings attached to it. Now, the Dolphins could walk away if they receive an offer higher than what they feel they can match. I suppose the Bills can try and call their bluff.
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