Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated for the 2018 offseason.
It’s that time of year when the NFL reminds you its calendar rarely slows and never stops. Less than three weeks after Super Bowl LII, the first window of player movement decisions will open.
Beginning Tuesday and continuing through March 6, teams can place the franchise tag on one pending free agent, a decision that is expensive but also provides massive leverage against losing a big-time player.
Transition tags can also be applied in this window, but the franchise tag is far more important — and popular — because it ensures the team a hefty return if a player ultimately departs. (Transition tags are cheaper, but offer only the opportunity to match an offer.)
As we enter the NFL’s 26th offseason with the tag — it made its debut in 1993 as the salary-cap era took off — let’s run through the basics, some recent trends and projections for 2018.
Please remind me exactly what the franchise tag is.
I appreciate your manners in these angry times.
The franchise tag is a labor designation that restricts a player’s potential movement in exchange for a high one-year salary. It is governed by owners and players through the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and has two types.
Go on …
The first is the “exclusive-rights” franchise tag. Any player with this tag is bound to the team for the upcoming season. His agent is prohibited from seeking offer sheets elsewhere.
The second is the “non-exclusive” franchise tag. In this scenario, players can sign an offer sheet with another team.
What happens after the tag is applied?
It depends on the interest level between the sides.
The player can sign the tender at any time, a decision that fully guarantees the salary and immediately places all of it on the current year’s cap charge. This can increase a player’s leverage in a tight cap situation; the team will be motivated to negotiate a longer-term deal to lower the cap number.
The decision can also backfire if the team is comfortable with the high cap number; the leverage in this case would side with a player who remains unsigned as camp looms.
In either event, the sides have until July 16 to agree on a multiyear extension. After that point, the player can sign only a one-year contract, which cannot be extended until after the season.
Can a team rescind the tag?
The Carolina Panthers did just that to cornerback Josh Norman in 2016, for example, when they determined they wouldn’t be able to sign him to a long-term extension. A rescinded tag is one of the risks players take when they don’t immediately sign the tender. It can’t be rescinded once it is signed.
What typically happens in these situations?
Over the past five years, the NFL has averaged just under seven franchise tag designations per season. Here’s a look at the final results in that span, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information researcher Evan Kaplan:
33 franchise tags extended
16 players played out the season under the tag
16 signed long-term extensions
I’m an amateur capologist. Where can I find the franchise values for each position?
That’s quite a hobby you’ve got there.
The NFL hasn’t calculated them yet, and one of the twists of the franchise tag window is that teams can extend them without knowing the exact figure. They’re usually released during the annual scouting combine, in the days before free agency begins (March 14). In a few cases, deals that happen between now and then can impact the exact numbers. The exact per-team salary-cap total — also not solidified yet — can change them as well.
The 2017 numbers are in the chart. The NFL salary cap is expected to jump at least $10 million from its $168 million number in 2017, so you can count on incremental rises in each franchise tag number as well. You can feel reasonably confident that the tag numbers will rise at least $500,000 and no more than $2 million per position.
Really? No firm numbers?
OK, maybe a few.
We know, based on the CBA, that a team has only one option when it wants to apply the tag in consecutive years to the same player: 120 percent of the previous year’s tag. That could apply to a number of players in 2018, most notably Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell played under a $12.12 million tag in 2017, meaning his 2018 tag would be worth $14.544 million. (He has said he might sit out the 2018 season rather than play a second year under the tag.)
Other than Bell, what other players are 2018 franchise-tag candidates? Here are some names to watch for if productive negotiations on long-term deals don’t materialize:
Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angles Rams
Andrew Norwell, G, Carolina Panthers
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Seattle Seahawks
Is it always bad for the player to play under the franchise tag?
The franchise tag pays a player close to market value for one year, but provides no future guarantees. The tag becomes an advantage if a player remains healthy and valuable enough that the team feels compelled to use it multiple times. The value of the second tag is 120 percent of the first, and the third 144 percent of the second.
How rarely do teams use the tag on the same player in consecutive years?
It happens more often than you might think: 15 times since 1997, including four times since 2011: Cleveland Browns place-kicker Phil Dawson, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
It is much less common for skill players. Cousins became the first quarterback ever franchised in consecutive years last offseason. There have been only three other skill players who have been tagged twice at any point in their careers: quarterbacks Drew Brees (2005, 2012) and Peyton Manning (2004, 2011) and receiver Rob Moore (1995, 1999).
Are some positions more susceptible to the franchise tag than others?
Per ESPN’s Stats & Information research, 30 offensive linemen have been franchise tagged since 1993, while 27 defensive ends and 26 linebackers were tagged. On the other end, there have been four punters, 10 quarterbacks, 11 running backs and 11 tight ends franchised.
Generally speaking, teams see a better economic value to leverage high-end linemen than skill-position players.
Do some teams use the tag more than others?
Yes, but given the 26-year span of the tag’s existence, the numbers are more a function of talent and cap management than a philosophical opposition or support of the tag itself. Every team in the league has used it at least once.
The Indianapolis Colts have used it an NFL-high 11 times, followed by the Chiefs (10), Seattle Seahawks (10) and Arizona Cardinals (10). The Texans (one), Falcons (two) and Browns (three) have used it the fewest times.
At $4.3 million, Patrick Mahomes’ own rookie card was too rich – Kansas City Chiefs Blog
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes wasn’t planning on buying his 2017 rookie card anyway, but as things turned out the bidding went well beyond what he would have paid.
“I don’t know if I would have gone all the way up there,” Mahomes said Friday from Kansas City Chiefs training camp about the recent sale of his signed rookie card for $4.3 million, a record for a football card. “I don’t know the ins and outs of it like those dudes do. They’ve definitely used it as an investment and I’m sure they’ll sell it later for more money.
“That’s a lot of money. I’ll say that. I knew it was going up for auction. I found out, but for it to go for that much, it shows that that business has been growing forever. I remember collecting cards as a little kid with my dad and to see how it’s really blown up these days … it really is a cool thing to see especially when it has your name on it.
Mahomes, shortly before the start of training camp, did purchase a piece of Sporting Kansas City, the city’s MLS team. Mahomes last year bought into the ownership group of the Kansas City Royals and his fiancee, Brittany Matthews, is a co-owner of Kansas City’s franchise in the National Women’s Soccer League.
NFL Nation reporters break down every division to get your ready for the season.
“It started a couple of years back,” Mahomes said of his interest in Sporting Kansas City. “The people over there at Sporting, I love the way that they run their business and how they’ve really invested in that team.
“My love of soccer started with Brittany. I really wanted to be a part of it and she has a NWSL team. That’s her thing and I wanted to do my own thing in a sense. And then always supporting the Kansas City community.
“The community has embraced me from Day 1. When I was behind Alex [Smith] and they were supporting Alex they still showed me love. When I came into the starting role they always believed in me. I want to show that same love to the community that they’ve showed me this entire time I’ve been here.”
Mahomes in soccer will be a rival of Chiefs’ chairman Clark Hunt. His Hunt Sports Group owns and operates FC Dallas of the MLS.
“I’m sure there will be a little rivalry there,” Mahomes said. “We’ll have a friendly little rivalry in that sense.”
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott expects to throw ‘in couple of days,’ says he’s ‘not worried’ about shoulder strain
OXNARD, Calif. — Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is not worried the right latissimus strain that has kept him off the practice field the last two days is anything that will linger into the regular season.
In fact, if this were the regular season, Prescott said he would practice and play.
“I think I’d do whatever is necessary and take the steps that were needed to make sure I was ready for Sunday if that’s when it was or Monday or whenever the game would be,” Prescott said. “I know I’d get myself there one way or the other and be able to perform the way I want to.”
Prescott pulled himself from Wednesday’s practice after feeling soreness in his right throwing shoulder, undergoing an MRI that revealed the strain. He said he likely did not warm up properly going into that practice and when one-on-one drills started, Prescott told backup Garrett Gilbert to take over.
“I didn’t want to work through and making something small worse and bigger than it has to be,” Prescott said.
Prescott said he expects to resume throwing in a “couple of days,” but perhaps be on a pitch count early.
“It’s making a deep throw or an aggressive throw right now that I don’t want risk,” he said. He will not practice Saturday or Sunday. The Cowboys are off on Monday and will practice Tuesday before departing for Canton, Ohio, and the Hall of Fame Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Coach Mike McCarthy said Prescott will be reassessed on Monday.
“Honestly I’m just going to let the rehab process answer that question,” McCarthy said. “I’m really focused on him getting back. It’s not an issue but you would definitely bring him back later than sooner mindset as far as the way we look at it.”
After missing so much time because of the compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle he suffered last October, Prescott admitted some disappointment.
“I am a little bummed about it, but still being active and still seeing the defense and still being a part of everything,” Prescott said. “So it’s not like anything that the ankle was. So I know I will be fine. I know I am doing the treatment. I am doing everything necessary to make sure I will be just fine. I am not worried about that. It’s not anything I worry about lingering or causing problems. Not even near the same aspect of the ankle and the time I had to take from that.”
Houston Texans QB Tyrod Taylor says Deshaun Watson ‘absolutely’ a resource, not a distraction at training camp
HOUSTON — For the third straight day of training camp, Deshaun Watson did not take part in team drills. Although the Houston Texans’ quarterback stood off to the side for most of practice, newly acquired QB Tyrod Taylor said Watson’s presence has not been a distraction.
Taylor said Watson has “absolutely” been a resource for him as he learns this new team and offense in Houston.
“Me and Deshaun are friends,” Taylor said. “We’ve known each other for a number of years now. We’ve had conversations on the field, off the field. Non-football, about life. Everything has been positive conversations and they’ll continue to be that way.”
Watson reported to training camp Sunday after requesting a trade from the Texans in January. Less than two months later, the first of 23 lawsuits was filed accusing Watson of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. He faces 22 active lawsuits after one was dropped.
Taylor, who signed with the Texans just hours before the first lawsuit was filed against Watson in March, said his mindset hasn’t changed from when he signed in Houston to the start of training camp.
“My mindset has been the same since I was drafted back in 2011,” Taylor said. “To walk in every day with your best attitude, compete, prepare like a starter and go out and make plays.
Taylor was named the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers last season, but started only one game before a team doctor accidentally punctured his lung with a pain-killing shot while attempting to treat a rib injury. He was replaced in that game by quarterback Justin Herbert, who kept the starting job and went on to be named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year.
Coach David Culley praised Taylor for being “first guy in this building every morning” and often being “the last guy to leave.”
“And that’s every day,” Culley said. “And that’s just who he is. You won’t ever hear him a whole bunch talking about this or talking about that. He just goes about his business.”
Culley announced that the Texans’ first padded practice will be on Tuesday, but declined to say whether Watson would be in pads for that practice.
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