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League to teams: You can use tags on Feb. 10

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  February 2, 2011 07:25 PM

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DALLAS – Barring some sort of court challenge by the players’ union – and it would likely be fruitless -- NFL teams will be able to use the franchise and/or transition tags in eight days.

There has been some discrepancy on whether the tags could be used this year and applied to the 2011 season, mostly from the union side.

But NFL senior vice president and general counsel Peter Rucco, who is one of the league’s in-house CBA wonks, said today that the league has told teams they can apply the tags in a 14-day window beginning Feb. 10.

“The CBA hasn’t expired and the CBA has the right to franchise players so we are telling clubs that you have the right to franchise players and then depending on what the new agreement says, that will take into account,” Rucco said. “Neither party is proposing to get rid of the franchise tag. But as far as we’re concerned, clubs have the right to tag players, the agreement continues with the same terms and conditions that it has been; it isn’t expiring until March 4 and the window to franchise players is 14 days. From our standpoint, you have every right to franchise players.”

The league’s decision on this matter will likely have a huge impact on Patriots guard Logan Mankins, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. The Patriots will likely tag Mankins and then either work out a contract extension when a new CBA is in place, or let him play the reason for the roughly $10 million an offensive lineman would earn under a tag. Mankins made $1.54 million in 2010 after the Patriots replaced his $3.268 million original tender because he failed to sign it by the deadline.

The league has told teams the tag rules would be the same as they were in the 2010 uncapped league year: one franchise and/or one transition tag at their disposal. In capped years, each team could use either a franchise or transition tag, but not both.

Asked why the league wouldn’t wait until a new agreement is in place, Rucco said, “because the window to tag them is now. The opportunity to tag them is now, before the agreement expires, that’s the way CBA reads. If you’re going to tender a franchise tag, you have to do it in a 14-day window before the CBA expires.”

Rucco said he wouldn’t be surprised if the union challenged the use of the franchise tag this year.

“They seem to challenge a lot of things but I don’t know what they’ll do,” he said.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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