In a matter of weeks, 31 other teams around the league will have the power to negotiate with and potentially sign Melvin Ingram away from the Los Angeles Chargers.
Ingram is easily the biggest name the Chargers will have to decide on within their own organization this offseason, and he’s not going to come cheap.
One option the team will have is to apply the franchise tag on Ingram, preventing him from ever hitting the open market. Teams will have until the March 1 deadline to make the decision on whether to apply the tag to players.
If the Chargers used the exclusive franchise tag on Ingram, they would have to pay him an average of the top five players at his position. No other teams would be able to negotiate with him. Should they use the non-exclusive tag, they would still have to pay him an average of the top five players at his position, but other teams would be able to negotiate with him and even sign him to an offer sheet. The Chargers would then have a week to match the offer.
Looking at the Chargers’ free agents courtesy of Spotrac, Danny Woodhead, Jahleel Addae and Manti Te’o are all unrestricted free agents. The Chargers could afford to lose any of them, but Ingram is another story.
Should the Chargers allow those three players to test the waters of free agency, they may be able to afford to retain Ingram outright, without using the tag. Of course, they run the risk that another team makes him a bigger offer, which would almost certainly happen. If Ingram isn’t completely enchanted with the move to Los Angeles, it may not be hard to pry him away.
Applying the tag would give the Chargers more time to work out a long-term deal with their star linebacker.
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The Chargers aren’t big on using the franchise tag, however. The team has only used the franchise tag six times in team history, and hasn’t used it at all since giving it to Vincent Jackson in 2011. Of course, Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the very next season.
In fact, of the six players the team has placed the franchise tag on, all of them have finished their careers somewhere else. Perhaps that’s why the organization isn’t too keen on using them.
In this case, though, it has to be considered. Good edge rushers are difficult to come across in the NFL and Ingram has developed nicely in his time with the Chargers. The combination of he and Joey Bosa is going to wreak havoc on opposing offenses for years to come, particularly in the defensive scheme of Gus Bradley. Why would the team want to even consider allowing him the chance to possibly sign somewhere else?
The Chargers have about a week to make this decision. If they choose not to use the tag on Ingram, good luck keeping him in a Chargers uniform.