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Franchise Facade: Dwayne Bowe And The Myth Of Monday's Contract Deadline

The Chiefs stand a solid chance of seeing Dwayne Bowe on the field beyond 2012 even if the Chiefs don't announce a new long-term contract with the wideout today.

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With the lack of NFL news over the last several weeks, any real action feels like a very big deal. The 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft was covered by so many, yet only one player, Josh Gordon, was taken in the entire affair. This week's deadline is with those players who have signed the franchise tag, and today is the deadline to negotiate any long-term contract or else be forced to play out the year. In short, it's another Supplemental Draft-level of news that will get blown up.

Here's what's at stake today. Franchised players were tagged so that there would be no question whether or not that player would be playing for their team in 2012. Dwayne Bowe was up for free agency in this last offseason, and the Chiefs didn't want their star receiver to leave. So they franchised him, which guarantees him a major salary that equates to the higher of 120 percent of last year's salary or the average paycheck of the top five players at his position in the NFL.

So the total for a wide receiver like Bowe to make this season is $9.5+ million in 2012. This guarantees that Bowe will be with the team through 2012. However, a team is not able to negotiate a long-term contract with the player during the season. In fact, today is the deadline to negotiate any extension or else force the player to play out that deal and hit the open market again.

That's the thought process behind all of this, which is why some players have signed an extension. Matt Forte is expected to get done today with the Chicago Bears. Tyvon Branch just re-signed a new deal with the Oakland Raiders. Chiefs fans have wondered whether or not Bowe would re-sign for some time now and it's been the cause for debate among many wondering what the team would do.

Those who are frustrated with the lack of a long-term deal also point to former cornerback Brandon Carr who jumped to the Dallas Cowboys this offseason to a major deal worth $50 million as another young player the team failed to lock up. It creates a picture of Scott Pioli as a guy who will not commit big dollars to players and the Chiefs akin to a franchise like the Royals -- who will always lose their big stars to bigger teams. But that is just not accurate. In fact, any real hand-wringing over this entire deadline is not realistic.

The reality is that Pioli has no problem locking up the players he believes to be pivotal to the organization. Jamaal Charles got a major extension. Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers will all likely retire as lifelong Chiefs. If Pioli wants a guy for the long haul, he's likely going to be able to keep him.

Now as for Bowe, here's an interesting scenario. There's a litany of evidence that players who in their contract year perform better than ever, as if they realize that it's all on the line to perform as best as they can to secure their financial future. Here, Pioli has one up on Bowe -- as long as the Chiefs can afford such an exorbitant salary for one year for one player, Bowe will be forced to play as if it's all on the line in 2012 -- just like he had to in 2011.

Now that's not giving Bowe any credit as an elite receiver who has truly turned the corner from his diva days as a rookie. He's a dynamic receiving threat that many teams would love the chance to sign long-term. He's more than earned an extension and stands as arguably the best Chiefs receiver of all time. The good news, however, is that a long-term deal can still get done.

Bowe is only 27 and if Pioli likes what he sees in 2012, there's no reason the two parties involved can't come together next offseason for a long-term deal. But Pioli can also franchise Bowe once again. For those who say that Bowe would begin to become cost-prohibitive, you've apparently forgotten to look at other top notch receivers. Larry Fitzgerald's deal averages $15 million per year. Brandon Marshall made $10,600,000 in 2011. That's not even mentioning the game's highest paid receiver in Calvin Johnson, although to be fair, Bowe is not Calvin Johnson. No one is.

Bowe's franchise number in 2013 will be $11.4 million. Now it's the upper echelon of all receivers to pay a guy that high. That's a top five in the game sort of number. But it's doable if Bowe continues to play so well and the team has the money to do it. Is it a stretch? Potentially. Does it mean Bowe is gone if they can't work out a deal? Not at all. If the team wants to replace Bowe, they could franchise him one more year and allow them to search free agency and the draft in case Jon Baldwin does not develop.

In short, Pioli knows the road ahead and what he can and cannot afford. The Chiefs have Bowe in house on a short term deal that doesn't allow any long-term security, meaning they will see the best of Bowe on and off the field in 2012. Whether or not that's fair to a guy who has already proven his worth is not the point. Pioli holds that upper hand and Bowe must play this out. Yet even in the end, there's a good chance this is not the last year that Chiefs fans will enjoy their best receiver.