The NFL for Rookies – The Franchise Tag

the franchise tag

The Deadline

All franchise tags have to be placed on players by Tuesday, March 9th, 2021. If a long-term contract isn’t agreed between all parties by July 15th at 4 p.m. EST, then a player will finish the season under the franchise tag deal.

But what is the franchise tag?

The Basics

The franchise tag is an option that teams are able to use on a player with an expiring contract, in order to keep them on their team for another season. Without using this, the contract may lapse with the player then going into free agency where other teams can talk to them and offer new deals.

There are a number of reasons why a team may choose to franchise tag a player but usually, it is due to on-going contract talks where an agreement has not yet been reached. The team use this as a safety net to buy them more time. This keeps them from losing the player whilst they attempt to iron out the details of a long-term deal. 

Using this short-term option is often seen as a negative step by many of the players in the NFL. They, obviously, preferring longer contracts with better job security and more guaranteed money over time. Over the years there are plenty of examples where players have expressed their grievances about ‘being tagged’. Most notably perhaps, in the 2018 season where Le’Veon Bell, then of the Pittsburgh Steelers, refused to sign the franchise tender. He opted instead to sit out the entire season, giving up what would have been a $14.45 million contract! 

Le'Veon Bell - no franchise tag for him
Le’Veon Bell – Chose to waive $14.45m and sat out the season instead

Not a Cheap Option

The use of the franchise tag tends to be an expensive option and so it is a decision the General Manager and Head Coach do not take lightly, knowing it will be a hefty hit on the salary cap. Therefore, it is usually only used on players that the team see as someone they cannot do without for the coming season. The salary that the tag is worth depends on what their old salary was and the player’s position.

The one–year guaranteed salary is the higher amount of either:

  • The average of the top-five salaries in the players position

OR 

  • 120% of their salary from the previous year

2021 Season – Minimum Franchise Tag Values:

PositionFranchise Tag
QB$24,112,000
DE$17,752,000
WR$16,430,000
LB$15,657,000
CB$15,266,000
OL$14,507,000
DT$14,178,000
S$11,196,000
RB$11,112,000
TE$10,167,000
ST$4,792,000

Teams even have the option to use the franchise tag on the same player in consecutive seasons. If they wish to tag the player for a second season then the salary is 120% the amount from the year before and if they do so for a 3rd consecutive season then the salary is 144% the amount from the second tag. 

In terms of the basics, that should mean you are fairly well set on what to be looking for in the NFL news in the next few days. Next, we will have a quick look into some of the finer details!

Types of Tag

There are actually three different tags that the team can use:

Exclusive Franchise Tag

This is the most straight-forward. Using this type of franchise tag means that no other teams can talk to the player. They are signed on a guaranteed one-year contract for the value mentioned above – unless the player refuses to sign it such as Le’Veon Bell!

Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag

This one is slightly more complicated. The team offers the same one-year contract as the exclusive tag. However, with this option, the player is still able to negotiate with other teams. If the player goes on to accept an offer from another team, the original team can match the deal to keep the player if they wish, OR can let the player leave and in return will receive two first-round draft picks in future NFL Drafts

If the player gets tagged but ends up leaving, that still counts as the teams one and only tag for the year.

Transition Tag

This is considered a higher risk/reward use of a tag. Rather than using the average salary from the top five paid players at the position, the transition tag uses the average from the top ten. Thus making the salary for the one-year contract significantly cheaper and therefore less of a hit on the salary cap. The values for the 2021 transition tag are below.

Just like the Non-Exclusive Tag the player is still able to talk to other teams to see if there are better offers available. The downside and more risky nature of the transition tag is that if the team choose not to match the offer, then they do not get the two first-round draft picks like they would have had if they used the non-exclusive option. 

PositionTransition Tag
QB$21,749,000
DE$14,811,000
WR$14,269,000
LB$13,406,000
CB$13,202,000
OL$13,156,000
DT$11,405,000
S$9,550,000
RB$8,942,000
TE$8,576,000
ST$4,382,000
Dak Prescott is a favourite of NFL analysts to be ‘tagged’ this coming season.

2021 Candidates

List of candidates for 2021 franchise tags from ESPN can be read here. The list is headlined by Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott following last years horrific injury. Also on the list is Packers star running back, Aaron Jones. Keep an eye out in the news over the next couple of days to see who is tagged this year!

That just about covers it, I reckon! As you can see there is a lot more to the franchise tag than meets the eye, and that largely comes down to the ‘Salary Cap’ which I will be covering in an upcoming article.

Cheers for reading!

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