A lot of folks have asked on various Eagles message boards whether or not the Eagles could put the franchise tag on unrestricted free agent WR Donte' Stallworth. The short answer to that question is YES. They could. League rules allow a team to designate any player as a franchise or transition player.
That said, a franchise tag on Donte would cost the Eagles $7.3 million (that is the avg of the TOP 5 WR - which is what a team must pay any player designated as a "franchise" player). The problem isn't the money, its that the full total would come straight out of the 2007 cap, no spreading it out over several years (like a signing bonus) or any other neat little accounting tricks that "capologists" use to lessen a players impact on the HARD salary cap. The 7.3 mill would be all salary.
Moreover, that move would consume 7.3 mill of our projected 12.5-14 mill cap space? That is a hefty chunk, and since we also have to pay the rookies, it all but eliminate our cap flexibility to address other problems/holes on the team (read: defense). So why do that, when you can re-sign Donte and give him a decent sized signing bonus (i.e. the payday he seeks) over a longer term contract (say 5 years) and then say take a 2-3 million cap hit for the first couple of years when his base salary would probably be artificially low (somewhere in the 500-750K range).
There are also the psycho-social ramifications...for whatever reason PLAYERS (fueled by their agents as well) seem to HATE getting tagged...the most likely reason IMO: it prevents them from getting a signing bonus. Players have been tagged, with the tacit understanding that a long-term deal will be worked out - but in the Eagles case: is Donte Stallworth TRULY a TOP 5 WR? If that answer is NO (and it almost assuredly is) then why make that move?
Bottom Line: there ARE WAYS TO PAY DONTE that won't kill our 2007 cap (or any cap) and Donte WANTS TO STAY...that said, if Rosenhaus drums up some huge deal for him, he will not budge the Eagles...they are going to have an acceptable range for a deal with Stallworth, and if DR comes back way above it - they'll wish him the best and wave goodbye....