The NFL offseason has begun... sort of.
Tuesday marks the first day teams in the league can apply a “franchise tag” on impending unrestricted free agents. The “franchise tag window” runs from Tuesday, February 23, through Tuesday, March 9.
There are two types of franchise tags (non-exclusive and exclusive) and also a transition tag option. Our John Dixon described all three in detail in last year’s post here.
Under a non-exclusive franchise tag (the most commonly used tag), the player’s salary is the greater of 120% of their current wage or the average salary cap percentage of the top five players at their position over the previous five seasons; this percentage is then applied to the current salary cap to determine their one-year compensation.
Under a non-exclusive franchise tag, the team could potentially net two first-round draft picks if the tagged player moves on to another team. Few NFL general managers would have a problem with getting that return for a player they’re having difficulty signing to a new contract.
But for an exclusive franchise tag, it is based on the greater of 120% of their current salary or the top five salaries at the position in mid-April of the current year — after free agency has been underway for a month. So the one-year compensation for a player on an exclusive franchise tag will tend to be higher than that of a player on a non-exclusive franchise tag.
The transition tag works just like the non-exclusive franchise tag — but with two key differences:
One is that the calculation for the player’s one-year compensation is based on the top 10 players at their position (rather than the top five) during the last five years. This has the effect of making the one-year compensation a bit lower than for a player on a non-exclusive franchise tag.
The other is that should the player negotiate a new deal with another team, their current team still has the right to match it — but if it doesn’t, it receives no compensation from the new team.
After tagging defensive tackle Chris Jones in 2020 and edge rusher Dee Ford in 2019, the Chiefs are not expected to use their franchise tag this offseason. Kansas City does have 23 players due to become unrestricted free agents (as can be found on our roster page), but none are likely to be worthy of a tag.
Many times, the franchise tag is used as a placeholder as general managers and player reps buy more time to work out long-term contracts, as we have seen a number of times in Kansas City. Each team can only use one franchise or transition tag each year.
Chiefs franchise tag history
2020: Chris Jones
2019: Dee Ford
2016: Eric Berry
2015: Justin Houston
2013: Branden Albert
2012: Dwayne Bowe
2011: Tamba Hali
2008: Jared Allen
2002: Tony Gonzalez
2000: Will Shields
1998: Dan Williams
1993: Neil Smith