The Houston Texans have placed the non-exclusive franchise designation on Jadeveon Clowney with the intention of eventiually working out a long-term deal, the team announced on Monday.
Clowney is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins March 13, but has been vocal about wanting to stay put in Houston, where he has spent his entire NFL career.
The non-exclusive tag designation means Clowney may negotiate with other NFL teams, but if he signs an offer sheet, the Texans have the right to match the offer. If they choose not to, they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
"Today, we have placed the franchise tag on Jadeveon Clowney, but our goal is to continue to work with his representation on a long-term contract," general manager Brian Gaine said in a statement.
"This gives us both an opportunity to do so."
Clowney said in January: "Of course, I want to come back. I promise to the Texans and whoever else is watching that I'm going to be a much better, improved player next season.
"I haven't been thinking about a contract. If I come back and play well like I know I'm going to, the contract will take care of itself. I'm going to work on my craft and work on my game. That's what I'm worrying about.
"That's very important because that makes me more confident knowing where you're going to be. That's very big for my family to know what's going. As a football player, I love Houston. Of course, I want to be here for the rest of my career."
Clowney, who turned 26 last month, was selected out of South Carolina with the number one overall pick of the 2014 draft.
The All-Pro defender has logged 29 sacks and five forced fumbles en route to three consecutive Pro Bowl selections during his career.