NFL teams have the option of using the franchise tag on one player every year, but not all tags are created equal.
Every position carries with it a different value, and there are three different designations teams can choose from when opting to tag a player.
The franchise tag deadline just passed today, Monday, March 4, at 4 p.m. ET. We wanted to break down what each type means for the teams and players involved, as well as give you the breakdown of how much money each position garners.
NFL teams are allowed to use the franchise tag on any free agent, but every team can only designate one franchise player.
Teams can tag the same player in consecutive years, but there is an exorbitant cost involved, per NFL Network's Albert Breer:
Teams can continuously franchise players, but it'll cost them to do that. As had been the case previously, a player tagged a second straight year would have his number set at 120 percent of the previous figure. A third straight year? That's where things change, and the percentage goes up to 144.
When the NFL and NFLPA signed their new CBA in 2011, some of the rules regarding franchise tags were changed. Instead of averaging out the top five salaries at each position, the league utilized a five-year average.
Breer reported that the value of non-exclusive franchise tags dropped as a result, writing:
The owners fought hard for this one, arguing that the tag numbers in 2011 had been artificially inflated because clubs had stashed money in the uncapped year. The Redskins, for example, did that with DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth, which caused seismic jumps in the franchise figures at corner and defensive tackle, respectively, and affected an across-the-board leap of 15-20 percent in price tags.
When a player is franchised, he can either sign the contract, or he can reject the offer and wait until the summer to try to put pressure on his team to sign him to a long-term deal.
As long as a player hasn't signed the contract, teams can retract it and let him walk.
If the player signs the contract, the money is fully guaranteed, unless the player fails “to establish or maintain his excellent physical condition,” (h/t Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio).
There are three types of tags teams can use on a veteran free agent:
- Exclusive Tag
- Non-Exclusive Tag
- Transition Tag
Using the exclusive tag secures the player tagged without any chance of another team getting involved. It's also extremely expensive. According to Spotrac.com, the definition of the exclusive tag is as follows:
An "exclusive" franchise player—not free to sign with another club—is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player's position as of April 16, or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater.
For instance, if the Ravens had used this designation on Joe Flacco instead of signing him to a long-term contract, it would have cost the team roughly $20.46 million for 2013, instead of the non-exclusive tag of $14,806,000.
Using the non-exclusive tag on a player gives teams a certain amount of security. Other teams can work to sign a player to a long-term contract, and the team that tags the player can either match that deal or receive two first-round picks in compensation for its loss.
This is the most common usage of the franchise tag, and it's rare for teams to use either of the other two designations.
The transition tag is not popular with NFL teams, even though it's the cheapest of the three.
Using this designation allows other teams to negotiate with a player, and the team that uses the tag can match any offer he receives. Should the team opt not to match any offer, though, there is absolutely no compensation in return, which is why this option isn't used.
Values For Every Position
The NFL and NFLPA recently released a memo that detailed the non-exclusive and transition tag numbers for each position.
NFL Network's Albert Breer recently got his hands on this memo, via Marc Sessler on NFL.com:
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