- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The unprecedented size of the franchise tag for cornerbacks, announced yesterday at the NFL Players Association’s annual news conference, ensures the Washington Redskins won’t place the tag on cornerback Fred Smoot.

It wasn’t clear in recent weeks how seriously the Redskins considered the option as team officials played coy and coach Joe Gibbs repeatedly said such discussions were yet to be held. However, vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said last night Smoot definitely won’t get the tag at a record $8.816 million.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Cerrato said.

The franchise tag permits a club to control one of its unrestricted free agents by making a one-year tender offer equivalent to the average of the position’s five highest-paid players. Although the tag wasn’t intended to extract trade value, it often is used in such fashion, as Washington did last year with cornerback Champ Bailey.

Bailey’s tag was for $6.801 million. The highest-priced tag historically has been reserved for quarterbacks. But this year cornerbacks made an unprecedented jump into the top slot. If Washington were to use the tag on Smoot, he simply could sign it, ensuring an $8.8 million payday, then wait for free agency in 2005.

“He’d sign that in a minute,” Cerrato acknowledged.

At lower levels, the tag can give a team leverage over the player, who can’t secure major guaranteed money and must negotiate on the club’s terms or seek a trade.

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