In the NFL, the start of a new league year means it's time to start making movies. Boy, has there already been a lot of noise so far this go around.
Aaron Rodgers is returning to the Green Bay Packers for a reported four-year, $200 million deal that would make him the highest-paid NFL player of all time (he later disputed the terms on Twitter.) A mere three hours later, the Seattle Seahawks dealt longtime franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for everything short of their soul. Then, the Indianapolis Colts traded Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders after only one year in Indy.
These are the kind of moves that give sports radio hosts something to talk about for months.
For the average Joe such as myself, multiple terms pop up during NFL free agency that I've been too lazy to look up. Tender, roster bonus, workout bonus, dead money, salary escalators. I've always thought "Jerry Maguire" was a documentary on how contracts are negotiated and the agent who yells "Show me the money!" the loudest earns the most lucrative deal.
Well, that may be true in some scenarios, but there's one term that's thrown around this time of year that I've never fully understood: the franchise tag.
It's time to put on our blazers and learn what it's all about.
What is a NFL Franchise Tag?
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According to USA Today, a franchise tag gives a team the option to keep one player who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for an additional year. The two sides then have until a July deadline to work out a long term deal. If no deal is reached by that point, the player will compete for one year on a franchise tag salary. In that case, contract negotiations can't be reopened until the following offseason.
Why Do NFL Teams Franchise Tag Players?
In layman's terms, NFL teams use the franchise tag to retain a valuable player. If the team and player haven't agreed to a long-term extension, it's a way to keep that player on the roster for another year. It was created as a way to level the playing field among small-market and big-market teams.
However, players don't love the idea of being tagged and franchise-tagged players have refused to take the field out of frustration in the past. For example, running back Le'Veon Bell refused to play on the franchise tag in 2018 because it was his second straight year receiving the tag. Bell felt he was worthy of being the top-paid back in the league while the Steelers used it as a way to get a bargain.
How is the Franchise Tag Salary Determined?
One of the pros of being franchise-tagged is a lucrative payday for one year. The exact figure is either the average of the top five salaries of the player's position or 120% of the player's current salary, whichever is higher.
The key here is one year. A franchise-tagged player only receives a one-year contract barring a new deal, and in a league where the average career length is about three years, long-term security is of the utmost importance.
Can a Player be Franchise Tagged Multiple Times?
Yes, but the cost increases for the team each instance. A player receives 120% of his first franchise tag salary the second time. In the rarity of a third franchise tag, the player gets either 120% of the average of the top five salaries of his position, 144% of his second franchise tag income or the average of the top five salaries for the highest-paid position in the league. Again, whichever is higher.
You don't see a third franchise tag too often because it doesn't make much financial sense to pay someone like a linebacker or defensive tackle as much as one of the top quarterbacks (the highest-paid position) in the league.
Are There Different Kinds of Franchise Tags?
Yes, there are two.
Exclusive: An exclusive tag bars a tagged player from negotiating a deal with a new team, effectively preventing a franchise player from exploring the open market. For example, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was given the exclusive tag in 2020.
Non-exclusive: A non-exclusive tag is essentially what restricted free agency is in the NBA. A player can negotiate a deal with a new team, but their original team has the right to match it. If the original team doesn't match, they can be rewarded two compensatory first-round draft picks from the new team.
There's also another tag to be aware of: the transition tag.
What is the Transition Tag?
The transition tag is like a cousin to the non-exclusive tag. It's cheaper, the salary is based on the average of the top 10 players at their position instead of the top five, but the player has the right to explore free agency and the original team has the right to match it.
Who Was Franchise-Tagged in 2022?
Here's the list of every player who was franchise-tagged ahead the March 8th deadline and how much they will be paid, per NFL.com:
Cincinnati Bengals: Safety Jessie Bates ($12.911 million)
Cleveland Browns: Tight end David Njoku ($10.931 million)
Dallas Cowboys: Tight end Dalton Schultz ($10.931 million)
Green Bay Packers: Wide receiver Davante Adams ($20.415 million)
Jacksonville Jaguars: Offensive lineman Cam Robinson ($16.662 million)
Kansas City Chiefs: Offensive lineman Orlando Brown ($16.662 million)
Miami Dolphins: Tight end Mike Gesicki ($10.931 million)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Wide receiver Chris Godwin ($19.179 million)
The New England Patriots were flirting with the idea of tagging cornerback J.C Jackson but ultimately decided against it. Thus, allowing Jackson to test the open market.
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