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Is Franchising Arian Foster The Smart Move For The Texans?

I haven't given much thought to the notion of your Houston Texans applying the franchise tag to Arian Foster, probably because I've long believed the team will come to terms on a long-term deal with Foster. Arian is a restricted free agent, which means another team could sign him to an offer sheet if the Texans and Foster haven't agreed to a new contract by the time free agency opens. In such a scenario, the Texans would have the right to match the offer. If they matched, Arian would stay in Houston. If they didn't match, the team that signed Foster would send a first-round pick to the Texans as compensation for procuring the services of the best running back in the NFL.

A first-round pick is nice and all, but it's no guarantee that the player selected with that pick will ever approach the value of Arian Foster to the Texans in 2012. Even the biggest Ben Tate fan among us would not suggest that Tate has shown he's as productive and multi-dimensional as Arian Foster is. Foster is a huge reason--not the only reason by any stretch of the imagination, but a very big reason--that the Texans' offense works as well as it does. They cannot let him walk, even if it meant an extra first-round pick.

The Texans also can't (well, shouldn't, anyway) pay him Adrian Peterson/CJ2.0YPC money. If that's the kind of contract Arian Foster wants (and it's not like he'd be out of line to believe he's worth that kind of money), I don't think the Texans are going to be the team to give it. We've talked about all the reasons before (e.g., too many other deals that need to get done, the relatively short shelf life of running backs in today's NFL, etc.). So if the Texans and Foster can't come to terms on a contract, yet they don't want to lose his services in 2012, there's really only one smart move to make for the organization.

On my drive home yesterday, I was listening to Charlie Pallilo on 790, and he mentioned the possibility of the Texans using the franchise tag on Arian Foster. As I said at the outset, it wasn't something I'd really thought about before. Pallilo's logic was sound. If the Texans don't tag Foster, a team with a need and plenty of cap room (Pallilo mentioned Cincinnati as an example) could sign Foster to a ridiculous deal that the Texans could not match without committing financial seppuku. Said team would gladly send its first-round pick Houston's way, because, hey, they just used that first-round pick to acquire Arian Freaking Foster. Talk about a productive draft.

Pallilo was adamant that he thought the Texans would, and should, apply the franchise tag to Arian Foster. The more I think about it, the more I agree. If the Texans and Foster have not agreed to a new contract by March 13th, the Texans should tag their starting RB. Foster may not like it, but it's the smart move for a team that cannot afford to let him get away before what could be a very special season.

Your thoughts?