The NFL franchise tag is used to claim rights to a player whose contract deal has expired in that particular season. The franchise tag allows NFL owners to tie a player to their team for a year for a hefty contract. In this article, let’s take a look at one of the most confusing elements of NFL free agency.
A player who is set to be an unrestricted free agent in a team can be placed under the franchise tag for the upcoming season. The tag guarantees one more year in the contract with a fixed price and in addition will give some time for both parties to work out a long-term contract or a future transition. Each team will get one franchise tag every year which can be applied as either an exclusive tag or a non-exclusive tag.
What are exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags
One might wonder what are the differences between the exclusive and non-exclusive tags. Well, in exclusive tag, the current team will offer a one-year contract with either the average of the top five salaries in that player’s position or 120% of his previous contract terms, whichever is the higher. Furthermore, the exclusive tag gives the team negotiating rights, the player who is placed under the tag won’t be able to negotiate with other teams during that period. Legal tampering period rules have special contract language for agency periods.
A non-exclusive franchise tag is similar to an exclusive tag in some ways. The team will offer the tagged player a one-year contract but instead of giving him the average of top five salaries in that player’s position, the team will give him the average of top 5 cap-hits of the market of his position or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. The difference between salary and cap hit isn’t much but it includes all the expenses that go toward the team’s cap spaces including the signing bonus.
Moreover, one main difference between the two tags is the negotiating powers. Unlike the players who are placed under the exclusive tag by the original team, the player who is non-exclusively tagged will be able to negotiate with other teams. If he gets an offer from another team, the tagging team has the option to match that offer or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing that player.
The advantages and disadvantages of franchise tags
The advantage of the franchise tag is, that the tag allows the team to claim rights to the players for one more year. In the age of salary caps, it will be easy to lose a player, who the team has been grooming for a while to another team but the franchise tag, when used correctly will avoid those situations.
It also gives an advantage to the players by giving them big money without having to commit to a franchise for a long time. Especially, the non-exclusive tag allows players to explore other options while having their old job guaranteed if they don’t find a new team.
The disadvantage is, of course, it gives too much power to the team. The teams have the power to keep a player for one year even if he doesn’t want to continue playing there. Moreover, players who will get more money in free agency will have to settle for the average of the top 5 salaries in their position market. For instance, Jalen Hurts, whose contract expires next year will certainly get a $50 million per year deal if he signed with a new team in free agency.
However, the Philadelphia Eagles will have the power to hold him with them for one more year with the franchise tag. By this year’s standards, Jalen Hurts would get $35 million for one year if he gets placed under the franchise tag. That is a loss for the Pro Bowl quarterback.
On the flip side, if the NY Giants can’t agree to a deal with their free agent QB Daniel Jones this season, they will end up tagging which will give him a $35 million contract for a year, definitely more money than what he will get at free agency.
Can a player be tagged two years in a row?
The franchise tag can be used on the player multiple times. The maximum number of times a team can tag a player is three times. But most teams will rarely use the tag on a player multiple since the second time a player is tagged, his salary will automatically increase by 20%.
There are instances where a team has tagged a player multiple times and disrupted a position’s market. Most recently the Dallas Cowboys tagged their star quarterback Dak Prescott. However, just a day after he was placed under for a second time, he agreed to a 4-year long-term deal $160 million contract extension with the Dallas-based football team.
On the other hand, the Washington Redskins tagged the starting quarterback spot candidate Kirk Cousins for two consecutive years. Although both parties failed to reach a middle ground in their contract talks and failed to make Cousins a franchise player. That led to Kirk Cousins becoming the first NFL QB to play two seasons under the franchise tag. After those two years, Kirk Cousins signed a 3-year $84 million fully guaranteed contract (a hefty increase from his previous salary) with the Minnesota Vikings, where he continues to play as their signal-caller.
When was the franchise tag introduced?
The NFL first introduced the franchise tag option in 1993. It was first dubbed as “Elway rule” since the Denver Broncos‘ then-owner Pat Bowlen refused to accept the proposed salary cap without a guarantee that to retain his franchise, QB John Elway.
This option was first introduced to be primarily used to retain the quarterbacks but after nearly three decades, the tag has grown on its own and is now being used to tag any position player in a team including the kickers and punters. While teams’ beloved quarterbacks still remain the obvious candidates, it’s certainly a tool for teams to bind a quality player and give them time to negotiate long-term deals with their favored picks. Be it a defensive tackle or even an offensive lineman, the franchise tag salary is applicable in modern football.
This is undoubtedly a great tool for the teams to steadily build a team and tackle the issue of quality players leaving their camps. However, it is not very popular among the player who once referred to it as a “prison tag” since they can’t control their own fate in free agency, once they are tagged by their team. The tag is introduced to mutually benefit both the team owners and the athletes. But now the players feel like the tag gives more advantage to the team owners and it isn’t a mutually beneficial element.
Aravind is an aspiring writer who covers NFL for Firstsportz. He has previously worked as a video editor for more than two years and has now decided to focus on one of his passion points, i.e. NFL. The young gun has been following NFL for the last five years and proclaims to love every aspect of football.
Apart from football he also loves to follow Cricket, MLB, and NBA. When there are no live sports on TV to watch, he spends his time watching Sports movies.
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