When the NFL offseason heats up, one of the biggest stories to watch each year is which players get the franchise tag. teams have a two-week window to apply the one-year offer. players who earn the tag must sign their offer or negotiate a long-term contract with their teams by the July 15 deadline.
The franchise tag is essentially a one-year contract that guarantees a predetermined salary to players. the salary amount is set by averaging the top five salaries per position for the previous league year, or if higher, 120 percent of a player’s salary the previous season. therefore, players like quarterbacks and defensive ends will command a much higher tag salary than positions like kicker or punter.
Reading: What does franchise tag mean
With the salary cap rising to an estimated $200 million, here are the reported salaries for each position under the franchise tag in 2020:
QBs: $26.824 millionRunning backs: $10.278 millionWide receivers: $17.865 millionTight ends: $10,607 million offensive linemen: $14.781 milliondefensive tackles: $16.126 milliondefensive ends: $17.788 millionlinebackers: $15.828 millioncornerbacks: $16.338 millionsafety: $11.441 millionkickers/punters: $5.019 million
Teams are generally only allowed to use the tag once a year. there are three different types of tags a team can assign.
just what its name implies. the player is locked into his team and cannot trade with any other team during the free agency period.
The player can negotiate with other teams, but if a competing team makes a free agent offer, the original team has the right to match it. if they don’t match the offer, they get two first-round picks in compensation. In other words, this is basically an intricate business scenario.
Similar to the non-exclusive tag, except the player is paid an average of the top 10 salaries at their position, instead of the top five. players with the transition tag are free to negotiate with other teams, but unlike non-exclusive players, the original team does not receive compensation if they fail to match an offer.
Once a player is tagged, that’s when the real drama begins. both sides have until mid-July to negotiate a long-term contract. this increases the sense of urgency. teams don’t want to use the tag because it ties a large portion of their salary cap to just one year. the players don’t like it because they have no financial security beyond that year and almost no leverage other than threatening to resist. if they can’t reach a long-term deal before the deadline, the player is up for his one-year deal.
Fortunately for most players, they can often secure a new contract with their team and the franchise tag doesn’t have to come into play, at least until next offseason.
shaquil barrett, edge, buccaneers
Barrett signed a one-year, $4 million trial deal with the Bucs last spring and, well, he showed it. He had 10 sacks in his first four games with Tampa, ultimately leading the league with 19.5, more than he had in the previous five seasons of his NFL career (14). The Buccaneers want to see if he can replicate that kind of production before signing a long-term, big-money deal.
kenya drake, rb, cardinals (transition tag)
The Cardinals used a tag to keep a player they acquired via trade in 2019. Drake was traded from the Dolphins in October for a conditional sixth-round pick and rushed for 5.2 yards per carry in his eight starts with The cardinals. With the team splitting from David Johnson, keeping Drake was a top priority for Arizona. still using the transition tag to make that happen is amazing. It’s likely to cost the Cardinals about $8.5 million in 2020, which will put Drake in the top 10 highest-paid running backs in the league. It’s a high price to pay, but it’s worth it if Drake continues to play like he did in his eight games with the Cardinals.
bud dupree, edge, steelers
dupree was a perfect overhang on the opposite side of t.j. watt fast pass. His 11.5 sacks, nearly double his career high, came at the perfect time with free agency awaiting in 2020. Pittsburgh decided to lock him up before he can court other teams this offseason. He received a Pittsburgh franchise tag, as expected.
a.j. green wr flares
Green averaged 79 receptions, 1,174 yards and eight touchdowns per season during his first seven seasons in the league, but injuries have limited him to just nine games the past two years. Though he missed all of 2019 with an ankle injury, his past production convinced the Bengals to keep him atop a receiving corps that also includes Tyler Boyd, John Ross and Auden Tate. that will give the team a solid supporting cast for the projected no. 1 overall pick from joe burrow next fall.
anthony harris, s, vikings
Minnesota entered 2020 in salary-cap hell, but the release of veteran defensemen xavier rhodes and linval joseph and the extension of quarterback kirk primos created enough salary-cap space to keep harris on the books with the franchise player tag. The rising safety tied for the league lead last fall with six interceptions and was a key component behind the Vikings’ postseason run. Time will tell if Minnesota locks him into a long-term deal or potentially places him as trade bait in an effort to cut costs.
derrick henry, rb, titans
tennessee’s $122 million contract extension with quarterback ryan tannehill created an opportunity to retain batman for his robin. The Titans tagged Henry after a monster 2019 where the burly running back led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards. the biggest question he will face is whether he can avoid a regression after taking 303 carries last fall and still be a regression, an undisputed no. 1 corridor. If the two sides don’t come to an extension, Tennessee will have at least one more season to prove it.
hunter henry, you, chargers
henry has been a top tier target for shippers… when he’s out in the field. the four-year veteran has never played a full 16-game season thanks to injuries, but has averaged nearly 13 yards per catch on a 71 percent catch rate as a tight end. That, his age (25) and a thin market at his position made him a desirable piece in free agency, but the Angels are ending that before he can begin.
chris jones, dt, bosses
Jones played a major role in Kansas City’s first NFL Championship in 50 years. the rushing defensive tackle has 24.5 sacks over his past two seasons. His pass deflected off him in the fourth quarter at Super Bowl 54 was instrumental in the Chiefs’ comeback victory. Unsurprisingly, the team has decided to lock him up via the franchise tag while he works on a potential long-term extension.
matt judon, edge, ravens
judon was counted on to lead a body of baltimore linebackers that lost za’darius smith and c.j. Mosley to free agency in 2019. He responded with career highs in starts (16), sacks (8.5) and QB hits (33), fourth-most in the NFL. The Ravens apparently won’t let him follow Smith and Mosley’s lead; they are securing it for 2020 with the franchise tag, in the cheaper position of olb instead of de. however, judon may be a candidate for tagging and trading.
yannick ngakoue, delaware, jaguars
ngakoue has no interest in signing a long-term contract with the jags:
That doesn’t mean he won’t be in Jacksonville next season. the Jaguars secured him for 2020 with their franchise tag. that will give the team a few more months to negotiate with the mighty pass-rusher or, if necessary, start exploring trade options.
dak prescott, qb, cowboys
Dallas couldn’t risk letting its budding star quarterback walk away after just four years with the club, but it also couldn’t get him to sign a contract extension that didn’t include the best cash on the market. That prompted Jerry Jones to place the exclusive franchise tag on it as the two sides continue negotiations, which will likely end with the signing of one of the richest deals in NFL history.
brandon scherff, og, washington
washington has to protect second-year quarterback dwayne haskins in 2020, so it makes sense that the team wants to keep scherff in town. The former first-round pick has missed 13 games the past two seasons due to injury, but he remains a vital part of Washington’s offensive identity going forward.
justin simmons, yes, broncos
simmons went from “role player” to “star” in his four seasons in denver, becoming one of the most versatile safeties in the league in the process. Instead of letting him go without any compensation other than a compensatory 2021 draft pick, the Broncos tagged him to keep him in the fold for at least one more season.
joe thuney, og, patriots
Thuney has been an unheralded part of the Patriots’ success, but the league had taken notice. Instead of allowing him to leave New England in a mega deal elsewhere, as Trent Brown and Nate Solder had done in recent years, Bill Belichick locked him up for 2020 by handing him over $16 million. If that number holds up, Thuney and Scherff would claim the highest salary of any interior lineman in NFL history.
leonard williams, dt, giants
new york gave up a third-round pick to acquire williams, who was in the final year of his rookie deal in 2019. rather than let him go after half a season with the club, the giants reportedly decided to protect their investment labeling the high-potential, low-producing lineman. williams is a versatile inside lane blocker in his prime, but he has offered little as a pass-rusher after his breakout 2016 season. his average tackling depth increased from 1.5 yards as a jet to 2.7 yards as a giant. That’s a pretty average number for a tackle who will now be paid as one of the top five players at his position.
who received the franchise tag in 2019?
While 15 players were tagged in 2020, only six players received the tag in 2019, the same number as in 2018. That included four pass-rushers: frank clark, demarcus lawrence, dee ford and jadeveon clownney. All but Lawrence ended up being traded after being tagged, and only Clowney didn’t use his tag as a springboard to a long-term deal last offseason. Kicker Robbie Gould and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett also received franchise tags in 2019. They each signed lucrative contract extensions later that summer.