Contract negotiations make every NFL offseason a chess match between a team, a player, and the player’s agent. Team owners want to retain players at the best value against their salary caps, while players and agents want to maximize their earnings. In some cases, a team will franchise tag a player when both sides are running out of time to make a deal.
What does a franchise tag in football mean? How do you franchise tag a player, how many players can you tag, etc.? Check out this blog post for answers to these questions and more!
What is a Franchise Tag in the NFL?
With a franchise tag, an NFL team prevents a free agent from entering the open market during the offseason. Each team can only use one franchise or transition tag per season. The franchise tag becomes a bit complicated because a team can retain an NFL player in three different ways.
To retain a player for one season, a team can use three types of franchise tags: exclusive, non-exclusive, and transition. There are pros and cons to each of these tags for both teams and players. An explanation of how each of these tags differs is given below.
Exclusive Franchise Tag, Non-Exclusive Franchise, and Transition Tag Explanation
Players with exclusive franchise tags can only negotiate contracts with their original teams. During the offseason, a non-exclusive tag allows the player to speak with other teams, but the original team can also match another team’s offer. If the player chooses another team’s contract offer, the initial squad receives two first-round picks from the new team.
Money is another difference between an exclusive franchise tag and a non-exclusive franchise tag. In an exclusive franchise tag, you give the player the average five salaries by position. If a player were a quarterback, their salary would be the average wage of all Quarterbacks in the league.
There is more math involved in the non-exclusive franchise tag. The first step is to sum the franchise tag of the previous five years by position. Divide the salary cap of the last five years by the sum of position numbers. Then you multiply that number by the current salary cap.
As a final measure, a transition tag takes the average of the top 10 salaries at a given position for a one-year contract. As opposed to the non-exclusive franchise tag, the transition tag does not receive any picks if the player is signed by another team. As compared to the other two options, this type of offer is rarely used.
How Long Can the Team and Player Negotiate a Franchise Deal?
A team can franchise tag one player early in spring to begin negotiations with their agent. A long-term agreement can be reached between the two sides from the spring to the summer. Franchise players can accept a one-year-tender franchise contract if no deal can be reached between the two parties.
When a player accepts the franchise tag, they cannot negotiate with another team during that year. When a player takes the franchise tag for one more year, they stay with their current squad.
Does the Franchise Tag Benefit the Team or Player More?
Franchise tags can benefit both sides or neither at the same time. In order to explain this further, here are a few examples of how a team and a player can benefit from the deal.
Upon becoming a free agent, a team’s player wants to test free agency and make a lot of money, so the team will work with the agent to extend the player’s contract. In the event that both sides cannot agree on the money and years, a team may franchise the player, which means they retain them for one more year. If a team cannot commit to a long-term contract or extension on a player due to salary cap restrictions, this tag can help.
A franchise tag is a guaranteed contract for a football player, which is not always the case. It is not uncommon for players to get cut from teams, which means they lose a portion of their contract salary. The Washington Football team’s Kirk Cousins took three consecutive franchise tags before signing a massive deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
Can a Player Refuse the Franchise Tag?
It is possible for a player to refuse the franchise tag, as Le’Veon Bell did with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018. Bell declined the Steelers’ offer of a guaranteed franchise contract of $14.5 million for one more season, which meant he would not make $14.5 million. Next season, Belle signed a contract with the Jets for $52.5 million, but only $33 million was guaranteed.
Belle was released from the New York Jets a year and a half after signing with them. As a result, Belle did not receive his entire $52.5 million, but the NY Jets also overpaid a player with little production for over a year. As a result of sitting out the previous season, he was ineffective the following season with the Jets.
As an exception to refusing a franchise tag, Bell is one of the few players to do so. Most players accept the label with guaranteed money, which is not the case in most traditional NFL contracts. Besides losing $14.5 by sitting out a year, Belle also lost a majority of his contract with the New York Jets since that wasn’t guaranteed.
How Many Times Can a Tagged Player be Franchised?
An NFL team can franchise a player up to three consecutive times. Each time a player is franchised, their salary increases in order to retain them. As an example, if you franchise your wide receiver three times in a row, you can expect to pay them more than you did the first time.
In year one, a player receives 100% of the guaranteed money for their average position salary for the top 5 players in their position. During year two, the team must pay 120% of the previous year’s salary or the average of the position’s top five salaries. In year three, the team must pay 144% of the last year’s wage or pay the average of the top five salaries by position.
Conclusion – What is a Franchise Tag in Football?
A franchise tag in the NFL is a delicate dance between a team, its player, and the player’s agent. It is possible for a franchise tag to benefit both a team and a player, since both parties benefit from it. Most players will take a franchise tag because it guarantees them money.
Most franchise deals are non-exclusive, which means that a team could receive a first-round draft pick from another team that signed the player during the offseason. Non-exclusive agreements allow the player to shop around to find a better deal, which can help both parties get what they want.
The franchise tag has few benefits for the player. For a single season, the only thing that matters is how much money they will make. Franchise tags allow players to earn the average salary of the top five single-season earners at their position for a single season. That’s not always a bad thing.
Franchise tags are avoided for several reasons, including hurt feelings and cost. The salary cap would be hammered by another $20 million by tagging Adams.