Armando Salguero

A transition tag for Jarvis Landry? Silly if you know these rules

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry leaves after being ejected from what could be his final game with the Miami Dolphins.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry leaves after being ejected from what could be his final game with the Miami Dolphins. AP

If you want to get to Pepe’s apartment a block away and it’s snowing really hard and you don’t want to walk, all you have to do is get in your car, drive up the block, and park outside his door, right? Simple.

Yeah, except you don’t know the rules. That sign pointing in the opposite direction you want to drive may be foreign to you, but it means you can’t drive the wrong way up a one-way street. That other thing that prohibits anyone from parking on the street during a snowstorm is called a law and, once again, your idea for making this trip to Pepe’s house an easy one is really bad.

And that, of course, leads me to Jarvis Landry:

For weeks now, Twitter general managers and even some members of the press corps have been suggesting that one way to handle the looming Jarvis Landry contract situation is to place a transition tag on him.

That will give the Dolphins the right of first refusal, meaning if another team offers him a contract when he hits free agency, the Dolphins are guaranteed the right to match and retain their wide receiver.

Reporters in Mobile, Alabama, covering the Dolphins during the Senior Bowl practices on Wednesday asked club executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum about this possibility.

“Yes, that’s obviously just one possibility that a team could use,” Tannenbaum said. “Again, every situation is going to be different. Usually you have the right to match, I think it’s the player average of the top 10 at his position. Again, we’ll see what happens. We have some time until any of these deadlines come up.”

But if the Dolphins were to, you know, actually place a transition tag on Landry, a bunch of pesky rules would start getting in the way. And those rules would be very much to the Dolphins’ detriment.

Firstly, the transition tag numbers for 2018 are not out yet so no number is official. But they are indeed calculated based on the top 10 salaries at any given position. And the smart folks at overthecap.com have formulated that the 2018 transition tag for a wide receiver will be $14.2 million.

That means if the Dolphins place the transition tag on Landry, they don’t necessarily have him signed as free agency begins. But he counts approximately $14.2 million against their cap.

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks about the Fins' bizarre season and Jarvis Landry's ejection after their final game of the season, a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

And why, you ask, would a team that will have to get rid of a lot of heavy baggage this offseason to create cap space want to take on a $14 million cap burden to start free agency? Especially when that offers no certainty?

I don’t know. I don’t think the Dolphins want that.

Moreover, teams interested in players carrying a transition tag typically front-load the deals so as to make matching those deals a burden. That’s exactly what happened with the Dolphins years ago when they placed the transition tag on Charles Clay and the Bills wrote a deal for the tight end that the Dolphins found wholly unpalatable.

So the Dolphins lost the player despite the tag.

Another reason the transition tag doesn’t make sense? The Dolphins already know Landry wants to be paid like Davante Adams, who is averaging $14.5 million per year from the Green Bay Packers. The Dolphins don’t want to pay that, folks.

When the sides exchanged contract ideas in December, the Dolphins were several million dollars per year under what Landry wanted. So why would they simply tag Landry at precisely the number he’s expecting to reach?

What sense does that make?

How is it logical to give the player exactly what he wants on a one-year annual basis but not really benefit by locking him up long term on that annual basis — something that typically makes the cap number much lower because it includes guaranteed monies that are prorated?

All right, this is a lot of math for the salary cap scientists.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry talks to the media about the scrum that got him ejected from the Fins' game against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium.

Me? I’m a words guy. And so here’s the key reason, in simple to understand terms, why the Dolphins would be foolish to use the transition tag on Jarvis Landry: Compensatory draft picks.

The NFL, you see, has a formula whereby it rewards teams that lose free agents with draft pick compensation the following year. If a big contract free agent signs with another team, that loss becomes part of the formula used to reward the original team with more and higher compensatory picks.

These are often valuable picks.

And as Landry is expected to get a sizable contract in free agency, the Dolphins could receive as much as a third- or fourth-round pick in 2019 in return for his free agency departure.

But ... if the Dolphins use the transition tag on Landry, and he leaves, he does not count at all in the compensatory draft pick formula. So the Dolphins would get zilch for Landry leaving.

That’s the rule.

It’s important to know the rules.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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