New Orleans Saints’ history with the franchise tag
The franchise tag has been a useful tool for teams to keep their best players in town since its inception back in the 1993 collective bargaining agreement, but the New Orleans Saints have used it sparingly — issuing the tag to just five players since 2004, though it was most recently deployed in 2021. These fully-guaranteed, one-year contracts often buy time for a long-term extension to manifest but the added pressure can damage relationships between players and management.
And the results have been hit-or-miss for New Orleans. Often players who were tagged wound up signing a multiyear deal with the Saints. Sometimes, though, it led to frayed relationships and a swift exodus. Let’s recap each situation now that the NFL’s franchise tag window has opened, even if the Saints lack candidates for it in 2023:
2004: DE Darren Howard
Todd Warshaw /Allsport
Howard played on the tag during the 2004 season, receiving $6,503,000.
2005: DE Darren Howard
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Howard played on the tag again in 2005 for $7,804,000. He left in free agency the following offseason, having earned a six-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
2007: DE Charles Grant
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Grant initially signed the franchise tag in 2007, valued at $8,664,000; but it bought the team enough time to reach an agreement on a seven-year deal valued at $52,750,000. However, he was released in 2010 after an injury.
2012: QB Drew Brees
AP Photo/Butch Dill
Negotiations got contentious between Brees and the Saints in 2012, and he initially agreed to play on the $16,371,000 franchise tag before later agreeing to a five-year, $100 million extension. He signed more extensions later in his career.
2014: TE Jimmy Graham
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
In hindsight, the Saints tagging Graham ended their relationship with one of their best players. The issue of the tag’s valuation went to arbitration, where it was determined he was a tight end, not a wide receiver, and thus owed only $7,035,000. He later agreed to a four-year, $40 million extension but was traded just in the second year of that deal as things continued to sour.
S Marcus Williams
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
Williams played on the $10,612,000 tag in 2021 but he and the Saints weren’t able to agree on a long-term deal. He signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent in 2022.