By Tom E. Curran
Beginning Thursday, NFL franchises believe they canusetheir franchise tags to keep would-be unrestricted free agents from hitting the open market in 2011. If you've been paying a sliver of attention, you may be wondering what "open market" exists to be hit. The collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 3 when the 2010 "league year" ends. There is no agreement governing the 2011 season. That means no free agency, no trades, no payment, no nothing until a new deal is reached. It means a lockout by the owners. Butwhile the league believes it can start applying franchise tags because their window for using themcomes before the CBA expires, the NFLPA says, "Whaaaa . . . ? How can you restrict a player from becoming a free agent in a league year that doesn't exist?"This is the union's viewpoint on it disseminated last week by my oldnew partner Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com. Here's the league's vantage point (our buddy Greg Bedard at The Boston Globe had the first confirmation of tag intentions). What's the pertinence around here? Logan Mankins. After spending 2010 under a restricted free agent tender, the All-Pro left guard still has no long-term deal. Mankins told Karen Guregian of The Boston Herald at the Pro Bowl he believes he's done in New England. The Patriots have no intention of allowing Mankins to go anywhere. Absent getting a long-term deal done, sources have told me they intend to use the franchise tag on him.You're wondering what happens if the players are right and the use of the franchise tag is, for lack of a better word, illegal? Well, where's Mankins going to sign before a new CBA gets done? Nowhere. And - according to sources close to the negotiations - there currently is no battle over whether or not franchise tags will exist when the new CBA is hammered out. They should be available. Here's the scenario. The Patriots apply a tag. The NFLPA takes the league to court and a judge says, "Yeah, can't do that. These guys aren't franchised," there willalmost certainly be a window prior to free agency that allows players to be franchised and kept off the market, even if it's a compressed 24-hour window. I'm told the franchise tag just isn't an important enough issue impacting rank-and-file players for the NFLPA to dig in on.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
Ray Ratto joins Chevrolet SportsNet Central to discuss Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand during the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers preseason game.
Bill Belichick was expansive Saturday when asked on a conference call how he'll split the quarterback reps for the Patriots final preseason game Thursday in New York.
"I think that’s a good question, it’s a fair question, it’s one that we really have to give some good consideration to," Belichick began. "As I said before, I think whatever we do will benefit whoever does it. We want to get Jimmy [Garoppolo] ready for the Arizona game. Tom [Brady] isn’t going to be playing for a while, so it’s kind of his last chance to play until he comes back after a few weeks. Jacoby [Brissett] certainly could use all the playing time that he can get. I think that whichever players we play will benefit from it and it will be valuable to them. We could play all three quarterbacks a lot next week and they’d all benefit from that and it would all be good, but we can’t."
Since they can't, Belichick said there will be situational work done with whoever isn't going to get the game reps.
"We only have one game and so many snaps, so we’ll have to, between practice and the game, put them in some situations that are somewhat controllable like a two-minute situation or things like that that you know are going to kind of come up one way or another," said Belichick. "You can sort of control those in how you want those broken down, what’s best, what does each guy need and how can we get the best we need for each guy. I need to let them get the reps that they need, but it’s how do we get the team ready for what they need to be ready for. They all need to get ready for different things.
What Jimmy’s role is in a couple weeks is going to be a lot different than what Tom’s is, and it’s going to be a lot different than what Jacoby’s is. At some point later on, those roles are going to change again. So again, there’s no perfect solution to it. We’ll just do the best we can to try to have our individual players and our team as well prepared as possible at whatever point that is that we have to deal with, and whenever those situations come up."
As I wrote earlier today, this is the sticky and uncomfortable situation arising from Deflategate. It's not a Tom Brady penalty. It's a team penalty when one considers the ripple effects. And there's no handbook to consult.
The Patriots have signed backup linebacker and special teamer Jonathan Freeny to a two-year contract extension through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.
Freeney, 27, was originally signed by the Patriots to a one-year free-agent deal in March 2015 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. He then earned a one-year extension last September and played 13 games, seven starts, with 50 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
"Jonathan is a very dependable player," Bill Belichick said on a conference call Saturday. "He is able to do a lot of different roles for us. He can play inside, outside, on the line of scrimmage and off the ball defensively. He has been a very valuable player for us in the kicking game, obviously with some size, a four-phase special teams player.
"He is one of our overall top workers in terms of the offseason program, preparation, training. He always does things right. He works hard, doesn't really say a lot, but is very dependable and consistent. I think everybody in the organization looks up to him."