Tag theme: NFL franchise tag primer

Field Level Media

February 22, 2022 at 11:03 am.

Tuesday marked the opening of tag season in the NFL.

Franchise tags can now be applied to pending free agents through March 8 at 4 p.m. ET, with the contract negotiating period for unrestricted free agents set to begin March 14.

Ten players received franchise tags in 2021, and with the salary cap projected at just over $208.2 million in 2022, a number of prized players can expect to be wearing the restrictive marker before the new league year begins.

The highest franchise tag value for any position is quarterbacks at $29.703 million. Wide receiver has a projected franchise value of $18.419 million, just below linebacker — $18.702 million — but ahead of defensive end, defensive tackle and cornerback.

“Tagged” players are able to negotiate with other teams in free agency, unless a team applies the “exclusive” franchise tag. The Cowboys used the “exclusive” franchise tag to retain QB Dak Prescott in 2020, preventing him from entering contract talks with any other team.

However, the non-exclusive tag preserves refusal rights — the opportunity to match a contract offer — for the team applying the tag.

Trades can be negotiated for franchise-tagged players and the most recent examples reveal the return might not be as steep for suitors as it once was. Pass rushers Yannick Ngakoue (Jaguars, 2020), Jadeveon Clowney (Texans, 2019) and Frank Clark (Seahawks, 2019) are recent examples of players tagged only to be traded.


Position-specific franchise tag values are determined by the NFL using the average of the top five individual salaries each year. The equation also requires adding the last five franchise tag amounts, then dividing that number by the previous five total salary-cap amounts.

QB: $29,703,000
LB: $18,702,000
WR: $18,419,000
DT: $17,896,000
DE: $17,859,000
CB: $17,825,000
OL: $16,662,000
S: $12,911,000
TE: $11,931,000
RB: $9,570,000
K/P: $5,250,000


Packers wide receiver Davante Adams — Nearly assured of being tagged with Green Bay in a state of flux — and $50.8 million over the projected cap. A long-term agreement is in the best interest of both sides. An All-Pro with undisputed credentials, Adams might want to walk if Aaron Rodgers exits. If a rapid reload were planned by the Packers, trading Adams for draft capital and/or another receiver could be in the cards.

Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu — The rare glue guy with off-the-charts production, Mathieu is a player the Chiefs don’t want to lose. Keeping him at a $12.911 million cap charge on a franchise tender sounds more than palatable, but don’t rule out the risk of acrimony and a holdout given the desire for a long-term agreement. Using the tag on Mathieu would mean the Chiefs reached a long-term pact with offensive tackle Orlando Brown.

Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson — He’s the player who made it palatable to lose Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers in October. Worth the franchise marker and then some, the Patriots can use the tag now and negotiate with Jackson toward a long-term deal until mid-July. He’s one of the top cover cornerbacks in the league with an NFL-best 25 interceptions since 2018.

Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki — As yet another offensive system arrives, Gesicki won’t be granted a ticket out of Miami just yet. After posting career numbers with 73 catches for 780 yards despite a revolving door at quarterback, Gesicki gets tagged for an on-the-cheap $11 million. That deal could work well for him, too, considering new head coach Mike McDaniel was brought up in a system dependent on the tight end position.

Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny — A former first-round pick with a blip of success late in the season, why use the tag to pinch Penny? Because at $9.5 million, it’s worth it for GM John Schneider to find out if his initial hunch on the running back was right. Penny rushed for 671 yards and six TDs in the final five games of the 2021 season, which appears to be a healthy indication Penny’s stock is on the rise.

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