Let the game of tag begin.
Tuesday marks the first day NFL teams can start placing the franchise or transition tag on players whose contracts are set to expire. The tag window runs from today, Feb. 22, to March 8.
Clubs that utilize a tender have until mid-July to work out a multi-year contract with a player. If an extension isn't agreed to at that point, the player will work the 2022 season under the one-year tender.
There are three tender options: 1) Non-exclusive franchise tag; 2) Exclusive franchise tag; 3) Transition tag.
Non-exclusive franchise tag: When most refer to the "franchise tag," they generally talk about the non-exclusive version. This is a one-year tender of 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: Unlike the non-exclusive version, the tagging team retains the sole right to negotiate with the player. The exclusivity comes with a bump in pay scale (current average salary versus averaging of the previous five years). This one-year tender offer of 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 rise in pay scale means only a select few get this tag. Usually, players for whom other teams would gladly give up two first-round picks receive this version of the tag -- generally, quarterbacks.
Transition tag: The transition tag is a one-year tender offer for the average of the top 10 salaries at the position -- as opposed to the 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 club. The tagging team is awarded no compensation if it chooses not to match a deal.
Tag figures for each position are based on the salary cap for the upcoming season. The projected cap for 2022 is expected to be $208.2 million, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported in December, a boost of $25.7 million from 2021.
Each team can use only one tag in a year. The club owns the right to rescind the tender at any time, but it counts as being used. A player can be tagged up to three times by his team, with a jump in pay each occurrence, but the percentage of the salary cap taken up by the third time generally makes it prohibitive.
Several big-name players could be in line for the franchise tag, including Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams, New England Patriots corner J.C. Jackson, Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown and Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones.
While the window opens today, don't expect a flurry of moves, as clubs generally wait until closer to the deadline to implement the tag in an effort to work out an extension before it comes to using a tender.