The Franchise Tag - All Access Sporting News
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Updated April 1,  4:15 PM  CT

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Everything you need to know about the Franchise Tag

    What does it mean when you hear a player has been "Slapped" with the franchise tag? Beginning today, and continuing through March 5, each team can place either the franchise or transition tag on one pending free agent. It's an expensive decision that provides substantial leverage against losing a talented player — and in many cases lowers the value a player might realize on the open market.

What it is -

The franchise tag is a one-year, guaranteed contract offer that prevents a player from hitting unrestricted free agency. The salary is based on the five-year average cap percentage for the tag at each position. 

Tagging in back-to-back years is also more expensive to the team than the first time tagging.

How does the franchise tag work?

The franchise tag is a labor designation that restricts a player's potential movement in exchange for a high one-year salary. It is governed through the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), represents a fully guaranteed salary once signed and has two types.


Two types of Tags

The first and most common is the "exclusive-rights" tag. Any player with this tag is bound to the team for the upcoming season. His agent is prohibited from seeking offer sheets elsewhere. The second is the "non-exclusive" tag. In this scenario, players can sign an offer sheet with another team. The original team has the right to match the offer. If it doesn't, it will receive two first-round draft picks from the new team.

- The "transition tag"

The transition tag is less expensive but isn't used as much because it does not extract compensation from the new team. NFL teams have employed it six times since the CBA was signed in 2011, most recently in 2018 by the Chicago Bears on cornerback Kyle Fuller. (The Bears matched the four-year, $56 million offer sheet Fuller signed with the Green Bay Packers.)

The only advantage of the transition tag is that it allows the original team to match an offer. It has sometimes been used to judge the market value of a pending free agent. 

How are the tag numbers determined?

■The exclusive-rights tag is calculated by taking the average of the top five players' cap percentage at the position for the current season, or 120 percent of his previous year's salary, whichever is greater. It has the highest value among the tags, and its specific value isn't determined until late April to account for current-year deals.

■The non-exclusive franchise tag is determined by calculating the average cap percentage at the player's position during the past five years, or 120 percent of his previous year's salary, whichever is greater.

■The transition-tag value is calculated by taking the average of the top 10 players at a position during the past five years.




How does the offer affect the salary cap?

When a player agrees and signs the tag, it fully guarantees the salary and immediately places all of it on the current year's cap charge. This can increase a player's leverage in a tight cap situation; the team will be motivated to negotiate a longer-term deal to lower the cap number. That decision can also backfire if the team is comfortable with the high cap number. The leverage, in this case, would side with a player who remains unsigned as camp looms. A tagged player can't participate in offseason workouts or any camps until he has at least signed the tender.

The sides have until *July 15 to agree on a multiyear extension. After that point, the player can sign only a one-year contract, which cannot be extended until after the season.


Can a team rescind the tag?

Absolutely. The Carolina Panthers did with cornerback Josh Norman in 2016 when they determined they wouldn't be able to sign him to a long-term extension. A rescinded tag is among the risks a player takes when he doesn't immediately sign the tender. It can't be rescinded once it is signed.


Can a tagged player be traded?
Yes. There have been reports that the Philadelphia Eagles could do just that with quarterback Nick Foles. In this scenario, the compensation is agreed to by both teams and does not necessarily have to be two first-round picks. The new team can accept the terms of the tag or renegotiate into a multiyear deal.


How many players can be tagged in a season?

Decisions each year are based on unique current details, but there has been an average of 6.3 franchise tags per year over the past six offseasons.


When does it start?

'Franchise season' begins on *February 19, when teams can first apply the tag. The deadline to use the tag is 4 p.m. ET on *March 5th.


*2019 dates


Ran DeBord ~ All Access Sporting News 

Sources for this article include:   NFL, OverTheCap, AASNSports  


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