NFL free agency as we think of it—teams throwing massive contracts at available players—doesn’t start until March 16, but the window for teams to try and retain their priority free agents has already begun. Starting February 22, teams are allowed to use the franchise tag or the transition tag to retain the services of their unrestricted free agents before the league-wide window opens. The tag window lasts until March 8.
What is the franchise tag?
The franchise tag is a one-year, fully-guaranteed contract that keeps the player with the same team from the previous season. Teams only get to use one per year, and it’s reserved for the top players at their position because of its cost. The rate is based on five highest salaries at the player’s position over the last five years for a non-exclusive tag and over the last year for an exclusive tag. The non-exclusive tag allows other teams to make offers, but the team that tagged the player in the first place has the right to match the offer or accept two first-round picks as compensation for letting the player walk. The exclusive tag means that other teams can’t come courting.
What is the transition tag?
The transition tag is similar, a one-year, fully-guaranteed deal, but the salary is based on the top 10 contracts at the position instead of the top five. Teams can make offers to players with the transition tag, and the tagging team has the right to match. However, the club that tagged the player would receive no compensation if they let the player take another team’s offer.
Here are the projected tag amounts for this season, according to Over the Cap.