What if you were an NFL quarterback?
Would you get a team to sign you to a $20 million contract?
Or would you be forced to sit out a year, pay a $500,000 buyout and then have to wait another year for your $7 million payday?
If you’re one of the few players with enough money to play in the NFL, chances are you’ve probably heard of the franchise tag.
It’s a move by NFL teams to get players to agree to deals for less than what they’re worth, essentially making them forfeit a roster spot for the duration of their contract.
In practice, teams often tag players to keep them from going elsewhere.
But the franchise-tag option has become increasingly popular in recent years as the NFL has started to experiment with it in an effort to improve player health.
There are a few different types of franchise-tied players that can sign their name on the dotted line: wide receivers, defensive backs, linebackers, tight ends and defensive backs.
The former can earn as much as $12 million per season in franchise tag dollars, while the latter can earn $5 million per year in salary.
With the salary cap now approaching $135 million, it would be a tough move for a team like the Browns to lose all of their draft picks if they wanted to use the franchise tags on players like defensive tackle Jordan Mills and defensive end Kevin Minter.
Mills, who signed with the Browns after spending the past two seasons with the Raiders, is the only defensive lineman that could be tagged in the final year of a contract.
Mills is coming off a career year for the Raiders after being named Defensive Player of the Year.
He recorded 11.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and seven pass breakups in just 31 games.
In 2018, Mills became the second defensive tackle in franchise history to record multiple sack titles, joining Trent Cole.
He was the Raiders’ No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Minter, the Browns’ No.”2 overall pick, recorded eight sacks, seven forced fummies, four fumble recoverys and six pass break ups in 26 games.
He also recorded eight tackles for loss, two sacks and two quarterback hurries in a season that saw him record the best statistical season of his career.
With Mills and Minter both on the franchise roster, the Raiders could potentially be able to add a few pieces to their defensive line rotation.
That could help the Browns improve on their run defense.
In 2017, the team ranked No. 29 in run defense and No. 12 in pass defense, per Pro Football Focus.
But Cleveland was one of only five teams in the league to allow the fewest yards per play in that same span.
The Browns rank No. 21 in the entire NFL, but they have allowed the fifth-fewest yards in the past five seasons.
In terms of sacks allowed, Cleveland ranks third in the AFC, but ranked 25th in total sacks allowed per game in 2017.
With both Mills and the Browns having a chance to improve on those numbers, the move to tag Minter could help Cleveland win games by pushing them into the passing game.
In the NFL’s modern era, teams are using franchise tags to keep their players.
The most recent example came in 2013 when the Rams signed running back Marshawn Lynch to a five-year, $55 million contract.
The move helped the Rams rank No-1 in rushing yards per game for the first time since 2005, and helped Lynch establish himself as a potential starter at the position.
If the Browns were to tag Mills, he would give Cleveland a big boost to their running game.
Mills was one to watch in 2018.
The Raiders’ offensive line struggled in the first two games of the year, and it’s unclear if the Browns are going to be able make up for the loss of Mills with a new tackle, but it would certainly help the Raiders.
With a new running back and a new starting offensive tackle, the offensive line will have a lot of flexibility to play to its strengths and still be able run the ball.
There is some debate as to whether the Browns will be able get Mills to agree on a long-term contract with them, but if they tag him, he could become a valuable piece for them.