What’s the big deal about the Franchise Tag, how much does a tag cost a team, and will the Cowboys use a tag this year?
#1 The Franchise Tag is a designation an NFL team applies to one of their players who has finished his contract and is ready to become an unrestricted free agent. If a team and that particular player are unable to negotiate a long-term deal, the team has until a certain date (March 1st in 2016) to place a tag on a player. A team can use only one tag per season. It’s totally up to the team to decide if they will use a tag; it is not mandatory. In fact, the Cowboys have elected not to tag anyone in 2016(last year the Cowboys tagged WR Dez Bryant).
#2 Players don’t like to be tagged because they want long-term deals with big bonuses and guaranteed money. If a team uses a Franchise Tag, the player receives a 1-year contract with a salary that is the average of the Top 5 salaries for players at the same position, or a 20% raise over his current salary, whichever is greater. Once a player receives the tag, he and the team have until mid-July to work out a long-term deal. If no deal is worked out by that time, the player and team are stuck with the one-year deal.
#3 The amount of the Franchise Tag is a good indicator of which positions are most valued in the NFL. No surprise here, but quarterbacks have the highest amount and punters the least amount. But did you know that defensive ends (who rush the QB) make more money than the receivers who catch the quarterback’s passes?
#4 Here are the 2016 Franchise Tag values by position (in other words, these are the averages of the Top 5 highest paid players at each position):
Quarterback – $19.953 million
Defensive End – $15,701 million
Wide Receiver – $14.599 million
Linebacker – $14.129 million
Cornerback – $13.952 million
Offensive lineman – $13.706 million
Defensive tackle – $13.615 million
Running back – $11.789 million
Safety – $10.806 million
Tight end – $9.118 million
Kicker/Punter – $4.572 million
#5 In addition to the Franchise Tag, a team has an option to use one Transition Tag each season. The Transition Tag is also a one year deal, but for less money. It’s the average of the Top 10 players at each position, or a 20% raise over the tagged player’s previous salary, whichever is greater. A Transition Tag player can negotiate with other teams, but the original team has a first-refusal right to match with seven days any offer sheet given to the tagged player. Match the offer, keep the player. Don’t match the offer, lose the player and receive no compensation (such as draft picks). The Transition Tag figures for 2016 are:
Quarterback – $17.696 million
Defensive End – $12.734 million
Wide Receiver – $12.268 million
Linebacker – $11.925 million
Cornerback – $11.913 million
Offensive lineman – $11.902 million
Defensive tackle – $10.875 million
Running back – $9.647 million
Safety – $9.116 million
Tight end – $7.713 million
Kicker/Punter – $4.123 million