The League

Brandon Benson
Packers Blogger

Brandon Benson

Brandon Benson is the lead blogger at Acme Packing Company.

The power of publicity

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When LeBron James appears on ESPN Thursday night, he will finish a free agency journey that has been years in the making. Countless articles over the years have looked ahead to when the 2003 NBA draft class would become unrestricted free agents. Energized fan bases in Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, and New York have been engaged for weeks with billboards and public rallies to woo him to their local team. The NBA free agency rumors have been front and center in the media since the negotiations began last week.

So when I read speculation about what the NFL might do with the franchise tag in light of the current NBA free agent frenzy, my first thought was of course they would eliminate it. Look at all this free publicity!

Now admittedly neither league was thinking about publicity (much) when they negotiated the rules of their respective collective bargaining agreements. But overall this has helped promote the NBA as a whole. I would expect the NBA to draw a lot more attention next season if James is playing for a new team (or a dream team in Miami) vs. remaining in Cleveland. How much media attention would be drawn to the NFL during February and March if Tom Brady really had an opportunity to negotiate with other teams as a free agent (instead of getting stuck with the franchise tag)?

The closest the NFL has ever come to a true unrestricted, MVP caliber, player in a free agent frenzy was with Reggie White. When he left Philadelphia in 1993, every stop on his free agent tour was a media event. In the short run it was a major blow to the fans in Philadelphia, but the Eagles franchise has hardly faltered since then. It's impossible to say how much this helped the NFL, but it certainly got a lot more people talking about football in March then was usual. No matter how successful the league, it's always in their interest to generate excitement and promote it.

However the NFL owners will never let the franchise tag go because they don't want to risk finding themselves in a situation where they might lose the face of their franchise. Also, it could lead to an overall increase in salaries as one owner overpays in the midst of a free agent frenzy. But I suspect the NFL as a whole would be better off if they truly gave every player a crack at free agency because it would increase publicity and force dysfunctional teams to improve so that their franchise players will want to stay of their own volition.

By Brandon Benson  |  July 8, 2010; 11:16 AM ET  | Category:  Collective Bargaining Agreement , Free Agency , NFL , NFL Rules Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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