The franchise tag is often used as a last resort for teams that want to keep a certain player for another year after failing to agree on a long-term contract. The Rams have used it before with players like Lamarcus Joyner and Trumaine Johnson, although neither signed an extension with the Rams after being tagged, which turned out to be a wise decision for Los Angeles.
Given the salary cap situation and the cost of the franchise tag, it seems unlikely the Rams will use it this offseason. But there is a way they could benefit from tagging Leonard Floyd or John Johnson without affecting the salary cap at all.
In an attempt to gain some capital in the draft, the Rams could use a tag-and-trade, which has become a popular method among teams in recent years. Essentially, they would place the franchise tag on Johnson or Floyd, who are their two most valuable outstanding free agents. Then they would enter into commercial discussions with other teams that might want to acquire one of them.
Considering that both players are considered to be among the best players in their respective positions in free agency, they should have strong trading markets. Johnson is an elite safety, while Floyd broke with 10.5 sacks for the Rams last season. A team may be willing to give up a second-round pick to sign Johnson or Floyd, and Floyd will likely get even more than that.
If the Rams agreed to a trade with another team, any player they tagged would have to sign the tender to make the trade official. The team that trades for Johnson or Floyd would take on the amount of the franchise tag for one year: $ 11.2 million for Johnson or $ 15.7 million for Floyd.
None of that money would go to the Rams’ salary cap, and it’s all the obligation of the new team. The acquiring team could also negotiate a new contract with Floyd or Johnson before July 15, essentially giving up draft capital for the right to exclusive bargaining power with the player.
There are also many examples of exchanges and labels that work in favor of a team.
2018: Dolphins trade Jarvis Landry to Browns for fourth- and seventh-round picks
2019: Seahawks trade Frank Clark to Chiefs for first- and second-round picks, as well as a third-round picks trade
2019: Chiefs trade Dee Ford to 49ers for second-round pick
2019: Texans trade Jadeveon Clowney to Seahawks for third-round pick, Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo
2020: Jaguars trade Yannick Ngakoue to Vikings for second-round picks and fifth-round conditional
There is no example of a safety trade after being tagged, but the return of pass rushers has been consistent. The Rams probably wouldn’t get a loot for Floyd like Seattle did for Clark, but it’s reasonable to think they could get at least one second-round pick, if not a second and a mid-round pick.
There aren’t many downsides to this scenario for the Rams, outside of the possibility that they can’t find a business partner for the player they decide to tag. In that case, they would be stuck paying Floyd or Johnson on the franchise tag for a year, or they could terminate the franchise tag, as the Panthers did with Josh Norman. It’s not a move that would suit the player, forcing him to wait a while before reaching free agency, but it is a possibility.
Given the Rams’ need for draft picks and their lack of cap space, this is certainly a move they should consider, especially with Floyd, who will be a hot commodity in the free agent market.