What does it mean for an NFL player to be franchise tagged? Deadline, candidates, and more

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) walks in the tunnel before a 2024 NFC divisional round game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) walks in the tunnel before a 2024 NFC divisional round game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

With Super Bowl 58 over with, NFL fans everywhere have started turning their attention to next season. However, before teams can start signing free agents, before teams start bringing in prospects for interviews and evaluations, before those prospects even take the field for the combine, there is the franchise tag period.

A common practice in the NFL, many fans are still not quite sure what the franchise tag is, who it can be used on, and that there are different types of franchise tags to use. Here is a quick breakdown of what the franchise tag means and who could get one this upcoming season.

Playing tag: NFL franchise tag candidates: What is each team's best option in 2024?

What is a franchise tag?

Created in 1993, a franchise tag is a tool that NFL teams can use on one of their impending free agents every year. Any player who signs a franchise tag agreement receives a one-year contract with their team at a set rate for the next season.

If you are asking yourself why a team wouldn't do this for a player every year and never have to worry about signing them to a long-term deal, there are a few issues. For one, the current NFL CBA only allows a player to be franchise tagged three times. Also, each subsequent time a player is franchise tagged, they become more expensive. Oftentimes, an extension is better for the team money-wise.

There are three types of franchise tags:

  • Exclusive franchise tag: These are more expensive, but they prevent players from negotiating for better offers with other teams. This is a rare franchise tag. On the occasion this tag is used, it's usually placed on quarterbacks. The last time a non-quarterback received this type of franchise tag was 2017 with then-Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell.

  • Non-exclusive franchise tag: Much more commonplace, these types of franchise tags allow the player in question to negotiate with other teams. If a team comes to the player with an offer, the original team will be given the opportunity to match that new team's deal. If the original team does not match the new team's deal, they will receive two first-round picks from the new team. The salary attached to an exclusive franchise tag is determined by either the average of the top five salaries at the player's position during the current year, or 120% of that player's previous salary. Whichever dollar amount is higher is the value of the contract.

  • Transition tag: Another uncommon tag, the transition tag works similarly to the non-exclusive tag with a few changes. The salary is once again matched to the higher figure between the cap percentage average of the ten largest salaries at that player's position the previous season, or 120% of their salary from a year ago. Just like non-exclusive players, any player on the transition tag can negotiate with other teams. However, if the player's current team can't match the offer of the other team, that player can sign with another team, which would not have to provide any form of compensation to his previous team. Essentially, a transition tag is just a non-exclusive tag that does not involve the team that signs them, which would otherwise offer two first-round draft picks if they sign the player instead.

When is the franchise tag deadline?

The window for teams to use the franchise tag starts Tuesday and goes until 4 p.m. ET on March 5.

Which players are eligible for the franchise tag?

Any impending unrestricted free agent is viable for a franchise tag. However, only high-end players ever really get this option.

Players become unrestricted free agents on March 13, the beginning of the league's new year. Teams have between Feb. 20 and March 5 to make the distinction as to who earns the franchise tag that year.

Notable players who will likely be franchise tagged

  • CIN WR Tee Higgins

  • IND WR Michael Pittman Jr.

  • JAX OLB Josh Allen

  • KC CB L'Jarius Sneed

  • LV RB Josh Jacobs (franchise tagged last year)

  • NYG RB Saquon Barkley (franchise tagged last year)

  • CHI CB Jaylon Johnson

  • CAR OLB Brian Burns

Of course, there are other players who could be tagged as well such as New England's linebacker Kyle Dugger and offensive lineman Mike Onwenu, New York Jets' pass rusher Bryce Huff, and San Francisco's pass rusher Chase Young. However, for reasons such as money or the fact that said player did not experience the breakout the team was hoping for, these players are less likely to get tagged.

NFL franchise tag candidates: What is each team's best option in 2024?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is the NFL's franchise tag? Deadline, candidates, and more