Franchise tag primer: Teams can start tagging players


Let the tagging begin.

Tuesday marks the first day NFL teams can designate the franchise or transition tag on players. The two-week window closes at 4 p.m. ET on March 6.'s Gregg Rosenthal provided you a list of potential candidates to be slapped with a tag. We're here to explain what the tags mean.

NFL teams have three different tagging options to attempt to keep players under club control: 1) Non-exclusive franchise tag; 2) Exclusive franchise tag; 3) Transition tag.

Non-exclusive franchise tag: This is the most commonly used tag. When people refer to the "franchise tag" they are generally talking about the non-exclusive version. It is a one-year tender offer for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position over the last five years, or 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever is greater. The player can negotiate with other teams. The player's current team has the right to match any offer, or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation if he signs with another club.

Exclusive franchise tag: A one-year tender offer to a player for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position for the current year, or 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever is greater. The player cannot negotiate with another team. The bump in pay scale (current average salary versus averaging of the past five years of data) means only the very best -- players for whom teams would gladly give up two first-round picks to sign -- receive this tag (Kirk Cousins and Le'Veon Bell received the exclusive tag last season).

Transition tag: The transition tag is generally a half-measure to try and keep a player but not necessarily at the premium price. The transition designation is a one-year tender offer for an amount that is the average of the top 10 salaries at the position -- as opposed to top five for the franchise tag. It guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player might receive from another team. The tagging club is awarded no compensation if it chooses not to match.

Tagged players have until 4 p.m. ET on July 16 to negotiate a multiyear contract with the team. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his club for the 2018 season, and the contract cannot be extended until after the team's last regular-season game.

Players can sign the tender at any point after they are given the designation. Until the tender is signed, the team can rescind the franchise or transition tag -- as we saw with Josh Norman two years ago. Once the sheet is signed, the player's salary is guaranteed for that season. If a player does not sign the tender, they remain without a contract, and therefore are not subject to fine schedules for skipping offseason workouts (as we saw with Bell last summer).

Each team can only use one tag in a given year -- they can't designate both a franchise and transition player. A rescinded tender counts as a tag, meaning a team can't designate one player, rescind it, and use a new tag on another player in the same year. A player can be tagged up to three times by his team, with a bump in pay each time.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported in December during the NFL's league meeting that teams were given a 2018 salary cap projection of $174.2-178.1 million, according to a source. The franchise and transition tag numbers will be determined when the final salary cap number is officially set. The salary cap was $167 million in 2017.