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Is the Franchise Tag the Key to the NFL's Success?

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In case you have been living under a rock, there was recently a blockbuster trade in the NBA, sending superstar Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks from the Denver Nuggets. While Knicks fans are rejoicing, the rest of the NBA fan base should be very worried about this deal. It is just one more sign that small-market teams cannot fairly compete with the big markets like New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. When was the last time you heard a player was determined to play for the Milwaukee Bucks? It just does not happen. As a result, the NBA has the least amount of parity of the four major sports.

The NFL, on the other hand, has more parity than ever, even in its own history. Players that fans grow to know and love generally stay with their respective franchises. However, there is still enough of a free agency market to allow teams to improve and change and to maintain buzz in the offseason.

The key to this near-perfect balance is the use of the franchise tag. Had the NBA had a franchise tag, LeBron James would have stayed in Cleveland, as would many other stars stay with the teams that drafted them. As a result, the NBA would be more like the NFL; with every team waking up thinking they at least have a chance at a successful season.

Just this offseason alone, two of the top quarterbacks from last year, Peyton Manning and Michael Vick, were given a franchise tag. Could you imagine if the NFL was more like the NBA, where star players would try to get on the same team as each other to win a title? Imagine if Peyton Manning, Lamarr Woodley, and David Harris decide to join the Cardinals. We have an instant power shift in the NFL.

However, perhaps there is another reason besides the franchise tag that prevents players from bailing on their hometown teams. Unlike the NBA, there is the constant threat of a career-ending injury on any play. Sure, it can certainly happen in the NBA, but not nearly at the rate in the NFL. Players are more willing to take money over going to a successful team for that reason. LeBron James, on the other hand, took a significant pay cut to go to the Miami Heat. That kind of thing rarely happens in the NFL.