What is the NFL franchise tag? Explaining the league's franchise and transition tag process

·4 min read

Some of the biggest stars in the National Football League are set to become free agents.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, Los Angeles Rams edge rusher Von Miller and New Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead are just a few big names at the end of their contracts ahead of the 2022-2023 NFL season.

Some teams are moving to keep their stars around for at least another year by exercising the NFL's franchise tag.

The Cincinnati Bengals franchise tagged star safety Jesse Bates III ahead of Tuesday's deadline. In 2022, Bates III helped lead the Bengals' defense to its first Super Bowl appearance since 1988.

The Cleveland Browns have also tied up tight end David Njoku using the franchise tag.

But what exactly is a franchise tag?

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Jesse bates III (30) celebrates an interception against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter.
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Jesse bates III (30) celebrates an interception against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter.

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What is an NFL franchise tag?

Every year, an NFL franchise has the option to exercise the franchise tag on one player. The tag allows a team to keep a player who is scheduled to become a free agent for an additional year. It is typically used to buy more time to negotiate a longer-term contract with the player.

The franchise tag gives a July 15 deadline to hammer out a new deal with the player. If no deal is reached by then, the player will play the season on a franchise tag salary until the window opens again to negotiate a deal the following offseason.

A franchise-tagged player receives a salary that is determined either by finding the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position or by calculating 120% of the player’s current salary. The player gets whichever is higher.

Can a player refuse a franchise tag?

The tag is unpopular among some players who hope to get a large contract right away. Players don’t have the official option to refuse, but some have resisted the tag in the past by refusing to sign and missing offseason training and the season.

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What is a non-exclusive franchise tag?

A non-exclusive franchise tag allows a tagged player to negotiate a deal with a new team. A tagged player’s original team has the options to match or refuse the new team’s offer or refuse it and be rewarded two first-round picks. If the original team refuses to match the offer, the tagged player can sign with the new team. This is the most common applied franchise tag.

FILE - Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) warms up prior to the start of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Cleveland. The Browns have used a franchise tag for next season on tight end David Njoku, preventing him from hitting the free agent market. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin, File)
FILE - Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) warms up prior to the start of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Cleveland. The Browns have used a franchise tag for next season on tight end David Njoku, preventing him from hitting the free agent market. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin, File)

What is an exclusive franchise tag?

An exclusive franchise tag bars a tagged player from negotiating a deal with a new team. The salary for an exclusive franchise tag is also calculated slightly differently than the salary for a non-exclusive franchise tag. An exclusive franchise-tagged player gets a guaranteed salary based on the average of the top five salaries at their position during the current year, as opposed to the average of the the top five salaries at a position over the last five years used for a non-exclusive franchise tag, according to Sportingnews.com.

Can the franchise tag be used on a player twice?

Yes, but it costs the team more money with each consecutive franchise tag. A couple teams are weighing whether to franchise tag their players a second season in a row. A player who receives a second consecutive franchise tag is guaranteed a salary 120% of his first franchise tag salary, according to NFL.com. If a players gets tagged a third consecutive time, a rarity, he gets the greater of 120% of the average of the top five salaries at the position, 144% of his second franchise tag salary, or the average of top five salaries for the highest paid position in the league (quarterback). If the Washington Commanders opt to franchise tag right guard Brandon Scherff for the third time, he would get a guaranteed salary of $29 million, the franchise tag value for quarterbacks.

What is the NFL's transition tag?

The transition tag is similar to the franchise tag, but it differs in a few areas. First, it’s cheaper than a franchise tag. Where the salary for a franchise tag is based on the average top five salaries for a position, the transition tag salary is based on the average of the position's top ten salaries.

But the transition tag still allows a tagged player to negotiate a deal with a new team. A team has the option to match the deal offered to its tagged player by another team and keep the player under the matching deal. If it refuses to match another’s team offer, the player is allowed to sign with the new team.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL franchise tag explained: What is it? What is the transition tag?