what is a franchise tag in football

What Is A Franchise Tag In Football & How It Works

With the NFL being one of the biggest leagues in the world, a lot of money is involved. Players from different NFL teams sign big contracts worth millions. In the off-season, the NFL opens the league for teams to sign new players. Teams can sign new players, extend a player’s contract and much more.

You’ll often hear terms like a franchise tag. So what is a franchise tag in football? A franchise tag in football is a one-year guaranteed contract that keeps an unrestricted player from hitting the market. The term applies to a player going to become an unrestricted free agent.

NFL teams have the rights to reserve one player for a period of one year as long as they meet to set out conditions. It is a tag that keeps a player going to become a free agent for an additional year. Teams then use the extended 1-year period to negotiate for a longer contract with the player.

There are usually different franchise tags, with each team allowed one per season.

So how does a franchise tag work? Who benefits more? Let’s keep reading to learn more.

How Does The Franchise Tag Work?

A franchise tag works when a team decides to keep one player that has become a free agent from leaving. The tag allows the team to keep the player on a one-year contract. This keeps them off the open market, buying the team more time to negotiate a bigger and longer contract.

In the NFL, teams have reserved rights to tag one player and start contract negotiations with his agent. Teams and players have up to July 15th to agree to a new contract after the franchise tag.

If a deal is not reached by July 15th, the player will play the rest of the season as a franchise tag player. He will also receive a franchise tag salary. I’ll shortly discuss how a franchise tag salary is calculated.

Once players accept the franchise tag, they cannot start contract negotiations with any other team in the NFL.

When Is the Franchise Tag Window?

The NFL has a specific Franchise tag window that happens 22 days to the start of the new season. According to the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, CBA ( ARTICLE 10) franchise tag opens 22 days to a new season start.

On the 22nd day preceding the first day of the new league, teams can designate players a franchise tag. The period ends at 4 pm New York time on the very first day of the start of the new league.

football catch plays by an athlete wearing maroon jersey

The exact start and close of the window are exactly 22 days. However, dates will vary depending on the season. By the closure of the window, any player not on contract or on a franchise tag will enter the open market.

Once a team agrees to a franchise tag with a player, they have until mid-July to agree to a new contract. If no contract is agreed upon, the player will spend the rest of the season on a franchise tag and the salary associated with a franchise tag.

Types Of Franchise Tags

There are three different types of franchise tags in the NFL. These are the exclusive tag, non-exclusive tags and transition tags. Let’s discuss the three tags in detail.

Exclusive Franchise Tag

The exclusive tag, just as the name denotes, allows the player to only negotiate with their original team. All other teams in the NFL, apart from the original team, are prohibited from negotiating with the player.

However, salary terms are higher than other franchise tags. The one-year contract pays a salary of the average top five salaries in the NFL at the same position or 120% of their previous salary. The choice depends on whichever is greater.

Non-Exclusive Franchise

A non-exclusive franchise offers a player a one-year contract. The salary is based on the average of the top five salaries in the same position for the last five years. A player can also get a 120% increase on the previous salary depending on what is higher.

As you can see, a salary calculation is based on the average in the past five years as opposed to one year.

But as opposed to the exclusive tag, a player can negotiate with other teams in the NFL. But the original team is given the right to match any offer. It can also get compensation by getting the first two rounds of the NFL drafts when the player leaves.

A non-exclusive franchise tag is by far the most common in the NFL. It offers both the player and team great benefits as opposed to the other two franchise tags. I’ll discuss more who benefits the most with the franchise tags.

Transition Tag Explanation

Lastly, we have a transition tag that works a bit differently. However, the tag also guarantees a one-year contract.

american football athletes playing in the field

It is a much cheaper franchise tag paying a salary of the average ten salaries in the same position for the past year.

The only benefit a team gets is the first refusal of any matching offers. However, if a player leaves, the team will not get any form of compensation.

How Long Has the NFL Franchise Tag Existed?

The NFL franchise has been in existence since 1993. It came about through a collective bargaining agreement, CBA.

Initially, there existed the Elway rule where Pat Bowen, who was the owner of the Denver Broncos, refused a salary cap as there was no guarantee of retaining John Elway. John Elway was a beloved Denver Broncos quarterback.

Payers would protest the limited agency fee leading to a strike. This led to the introduction of a franchise tag and a salary cap.

Initially, the franchise tag was centered around quarterbacks guaranteeing better pay and some security for team owners.

It is a mutually beneficial agreement. However, some players have called it a prison tag that limits players from freely negotiating when their contracts are over.

How Much Does Franchise-Tagging a Player Costs?

The franchise tagging player costs are usually shared by the NFL after calculations of the player salaries in different positions. The costs vary from one season to another.

As of the year 2022, the salary cap was set at $208.2 million. Projections for the different positions in the franchise tag and exclusive tags are as follows.

  • Wide receiver: $18.5 million
  • Tight end: $11 million
  • Offensive lineman: $16.5 million
  • Running back: $9.5 million
  • Defensive end: $17.5 million
  • Cornerback: $17.5 million
  • Quarterback: $29.5 million
  • Defensive tackle: $17 million
  • Safety: $13 million
  • Linebacker: $18.5 million
  • Kicker/Punter: $5 million
american football players position battle

A good example is the New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson who is going to be a free agent. New England Patriots estimate the ideal franchise tag number as $17.3 million, which doesn’t fall far from the projections.

Does the Franchise Tag Benefit the Team or Player More?

A franchise tag benefits both the team and the player, depending on whether a contract is agreed upon.

A player knows he will make a lot of money as a free agent. And the team knows this too. The team also knows the importance of the player and doesn’t want to lose him freely. So both parties will work out a deal that benefits both parties.

But what if a team can’t agree to a deal with the player? Then the team uses the franchise to keep hold of the player for one extra year. In the scenario, the tag benefits the team since the player would have left.

However, players also gain since the franchise tag offers a guaranteed salary for a year. Overall, a franchise tag benefits both the team and the player in one way or another.

Can a Player Refuse a Franchise Tag?

Yes, a player can refuse a franchise tag. One such case happened in 2018 when Le’Veon refused a franchise tag playing for Pittsburgh Steelers.

Le’Veon was offered a guaranteed franchise tag of $14.5 million for the rest of the season. However, he declined the offer and sat the entire season out. It meant missing out on the entire contract money.

He would then go on to sign a contract with the New York Jets worth %52.5 million and $33 guaranteed.

The decision would haunt him as he became ineffective after missing an entire season of football. One and half years later, the New York Jets released him. That meant he did not get the full amount he signed for in the contract.

However, most players agree to franchise tags. So far, Belle is the only exception to have refused a franchise tag.

Who Received the Franchise Tag in 2021 and 2022?

Wide Receiver Chris Godwin and Davante Adams received the highest franchise tag in 2021 and 2022. Adamas, the Green Bay Packers, got a $20.415 million franchise tag.

red american football helmet on the field

Chris Godwin, playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, got a $19.179 million franchise tag, keeping him for another season.

What Is the NFL’s Transition Tag?

The NFL’s transition tag is a one-year contract with a salary offer averaging the top 10-position salary for the last year. The transition tag guarantees the club the first refusal of any offers made to the player.

How Many Years Can You Franchise Tag a Player?

A player in the NFL can be franchised up to three times. However, it costs more to franchise tag a player every year. With each consecutive franchise, the player earnings go higher.

In addition, each team receives one player franchise tag per season. Most teams only franchise tag a player for a single year and then try to agree to a new contract.

How Long Can a Player and Team Negotiate a Franchise Deal?

A team and a player can negotiate for a franchise deal up to 22 days to the start of the new season. The period runs up to 4 pm mid-July New York time. If a deal has not been agreed upon, the player will play on a franchise salary for the rest of the season.

Conclusion

In summary, a franchise tag is a temporary contract agreement that buys a team more time to agree to a long-term contract with the player. It’s usually a delicate situation between a team, a player and an agent regarding a player’s contract. 

Teams are always looking to keep their best players when their contract ends. But players are also on the lookout for new opportunities and bigger contracts.

A franchise in football helps strike a compromise. It buys time for the team and players to analyze their options and make the best decision possible. In most cases, a franchise benefits both the player and the team. This is the case when the player ends up signing a better contract. 

In the end, teams and players are looking for deals that offer value. A franchise guarantees a player a salary while buying time for the team to offer a better contract.

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