The 2024 NFL offseason has arrived. With free agency right around the corner, teams must determine if any of their pending free agents are worthy of the franchise tag.
How does the franchise tag work? When is the tag deadline in 2024, and how much can each position group earn on the franchise tender? Let’s find the answers to all those questions.
What Is the NFL Franchise Tag?
The franchise tag is a tool that NFL teams can use to ensure they retain an unrestricted free agent. Teams do not have to use the franchise tag, and they are only allowed to designate one player with the franchise tag per season. They must also decide whether to utilize the franchise or transition tag — which serves a similar purpose.
How Does the NFL Franchise Tag Work?
By deploying the franchise tag, teams buy themselves an extra year of service time from whichever player they choose as their franchise player. The franchise tender is often used when a club cannot finalize a long-term contract extension with a player it hopes to retain.
Franchise tags are fully guaranteed. As soon as the player signs the tender, his one-year salary cannot be rescinded, even if he’s traded.
Once a team applies a tag, it has a few months to work out an extension with the tagged player.
The NFL has not yet announced this year’s franchise tag extension deadline, but if previous offseasons are any guide, it will likely be on July 15. After that point, teams and players must pause negotiations until the following offseason.
Six players were assigned the franchise tag during the 2023 NFL offseason: Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard, Las Vegas Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley, Jacksonville Jaguars TE Evan Engram, and Washington Commanders DT Daron Payne.
Jackson, Engram, and Payne eventually agreed to extensions with their respective teams. Jacobs and Barkley staged mini-holdouts before hammering out revised one-year deals, while Pollard simply played on the tag.
What Is the Difference Between an Exclusive and Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag?
The most common type of franchise tag is the non-exclusive version. With this iteration of the franchise tender, the player can still negotiate with other teams following the application of the tag.
If a rival club offers a franchised player a contract, the player’s initial team will have the right to refuse to match the offer. If the incumbent squad declines to match the offer sheet, the team proposing the new contract must send two first-round picks in return for signing the player.
The benefit of applying the non-exclusive franchise tag is that it comes at a slightly lower cost than the exclusive tag. The cost of the non-exclusive tag is calculated by averaging the top five cap hits at the position for the previous five years. That figure is then proportionally adjusted for the upcoming season’s salary cap.
Meanwhile, the cost of the exclusive franchise tag is not fully known when it is applied. Following that year’s free agency, the price of the exclusive franchise tag is calculated as the average of the top five cap numbers at the position when free agency is over. The value is usually finalized in mid-April.
There are times when the two calculations above are not used. If the calculated franchise tag value is lower than 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, then the 120% number is used instead.
Can a Player Refuse the NFL Franchise Tag?
Officially, players cannot refuse the NFL franchise tag. While players can make waves and try to force their way out after being tagged, they cannot simply turn down the tag and head to free agency.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon staged a dramatic holdout after being franchise-tagged for a second consecutive season in 2018. He sat out the entire year and did not earn a salary before inking a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets the following offseason.
In 2022, then-Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams threatened to hold out after being assigned the tag.
Green Bay eventually traded Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, who sacrificed first- and second-round picks before signing Adams to a five-year, $140 million extension.
How Many Times Can NFL Teams Tag a Player?
An NFL player can theoretically be franchise-tagged three times. But no player has ever been assigned three tags, likely because the cost is too steep.
A second franchise tag entitles a player to a 20% increase over their previous year’s salary cap cap charge. The exception would be if the salary cap value for the position increased by more than 20%, in which case, the higher value would be taken.
A third tag would see the price rise even higher, as the player would be due a 44% raise over their former salary.
It’s important to note that a player can only be tagged three times total, not by one team. In 2012, Drew Brees — who’d been tagged once each by the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints — won a grievance that ruled his next franchise tender would count as his third. However, Brees was never tagged again.
2024 NFL Franchise Tag Deadline and Values
The deadline to apply the franchise tag is 4 p.m. ET on March 5. The window opened on Feb. 20 and runs through the next 15 days.
The NFL set the 2024 salary cap at $255.4 million in late February and simultaneously announced this season’s franchise tag values:
- Running Back
- Wide Receiver
- Tight End
- Offensive Linemen
- Defensive Tackle
- Defensive End
- Special Teams
KEEP READING: What an NFL Unrestricted Free Agent Is
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