The franchise tag is a special kind of one-year contract that only exists in the NFL. Once per offseason, a franchise may elect to tag a player, locking them into a non-negotiated salary for the upcoming season.
Only players who are about to become free agents can be hit with the franchise tag. The franchise tag can’t be used to adjust a player’s salary in the middle of their contract.
Generally, teams deploy the franchise tag strategically, opting to lock up a key player for a year if long-term negotiations fall apart.
There are two types of franchise tags. The first is the exclusive tag, which prevents a player from negotiating with any other franchise as they would during the free agency period and pays the player a fully guaranteed salary.
Tagged players earn either the average of the top five players at their position or 120% of a player’s previous salary – whichever figure is more lucrative for the player.
The other type of franchise tag is known as the non-exclusive tag, and it allows players to negotiate with other teams. If a non-exclusively tagged player does reach a new deal with another team, the original franchise that tagged him retains the right to match the deal if it so chooses.
If the original franchise elects to let the player go, it is awarded a pair of first-round picks as compensation for losing the tagged player.
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