IRVING, Texas – The news that Anthony Spencer has undergone season-ending microfracture surgery on his injured knee continues an extensive curse of the franchise tag early this year.
Half of the eight players who received the tag are either likely to miss the entire season or haven’t played a snap this year.
Spencer is now the third player on the franchise tag to be out for the year just three weeks into the season. Broncos tackle Ryan Clady (foot) is already on injured reserve, while defensive tackle Henry Melton tore his ACL in the Bears’ most recent game against the Steelers.
They’re not the only ones suffering from injuries, either. Five of the eight players who received a franchise tag this year are hurt in some degree.
Bills safety Jairus Byrd hasn’t played this season with plantar fasciitis in his foot. He was upgraded from doubtful to questionable but still hasn’t made his way onto the field. In addition, Chiefs tackle Branden Albert sprained his shoulder against the Cowboys, leaving for part of that Week 2 contest. He may need to fight through that injury for a while.
That leaves just three players – Colts punter Pat McAfee, Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson and Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks – as the healthy players on a franchise tag right now. Apart from Johnson and his 1.5 sacks this year, the season hasn’t exactly started mesmerizingly for anyone on the tag.
Starks wasn’t a starter at all to begin the season for the Dolphins, as Jared Odrick and Paul Soliai manned the tackle spots the first two weeks of the season in Miami. It wasn’t until Soliai got hurt that Starks started for the first time in Week 3. Meanwhile, McAfee ranks 13th in the league in punting average at 46.8 yards and 14th in net punting average at 41.5 yards.
The franchise tag can be a risky investment for a team in the short-term if the player doesn’t meet lofty expectations, but it frees a team up from investing far into the future. Meanwhile, it puts a nice sum of cash in the pocket of a player in the short-term, but it’s also risky for those players’ long-term security and stability.
A serious injury and a down year can put the tagged players in a bind when searching for a hefty, long-term contract after the season. That looks like it’ll be the case for many of those players in what appears to be a cursed year for the franchise tag.