The Franchise Tag window for NFL teams officially opened on Tuesday, and each team will now have until the 9th March to tag a player if they feel the need to. It’s an interesting time, as it means some of this off seasons top free agents may disappear from the availability list.
Of course, the ideal scenario is to re-sign your players to long term contracts, and the tag is somewhat of a last chance saloon scenario, where a longer term deal can’t be agreed, and it buys you a year. This is particularly helpful if you find yourselves in the situation that you can’t afford to agree a long term offer with one of your pending free agents.
The official definition of the franchise tag is as follows (source, CBS Franchise Tag Tracker):
- Franchise tags are one-year contract offers that come in two forms: exclusive and non-exclusive.
- Exclusive tags restrict negotiating rights to the tagging team and pay out an average of the top five salaries at the player’s position in the current year, or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater.
- Non-exclusive tags, which are more common, pay out an average of the top five tag amounts at the player’s position from the previous five years (applied to the current cap), or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. Players who receive this tag can negotiate with other teams, but the tagging team has the right to match any offer — and would also receive two first-round draft picks in the event the player signs elsewhere.
- Transition tags are also one-year contract offers. They pay out an average of the top 10 salaries at the player’s position. Players who receive this tag can negotiate with other teams, but the tagging team has the right to match any offer. If the tagging team declines to match, it would not receive any compensation in return.
One important thing to note about the franchise tag values this season, is that they are reduced in value as opposed to last season. Ian Rapoport spoke of this and mentioned that this was the case, which may make for some interesting scenarios around the league, as teams navigate a post COVID salary cap reduction ahead of the 2021 season.
Here’s a few players to keep an eye on, who might stay with their respective teams on a franchise tag deal for the upcoming season:
Chris Godwin, WR – Tampa Bay Bucs
The franchise tag could come into play here as the Bucs try to run it back with Tom Brady in the second of his two year deal in the Bay. Godwin was great for the Bucs this year, contributing 840 yards and 7 touchdowns in the regular season. He was a pivotal part of the offence when the opposing defence had their focus on Mike Evans on the outside.
If the Bucs can tag Godwin in order to keep him for one more season, but without crippling themselves by committing long term, I can see that being a viable option, for both parties. If Godwin performs at the same level again this year, he’d likely fetch a very healthy pay day from another team. Of course, that’s still likely this off season, but if you’re Chris Godwin, maybe it’s advantageous to hang around with Tom Brady for one more year…
Aaron Jones, RB – Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones has been a pivotal part of the Packers offensive system, particularly in the past two seasons. He’s contributed over 1400 all purpose yards in both of those seasons, which has been a significant part of the way the Packers have run their offence. With the passing option Jones offers out of the backfield, teams have to account for him.
Again here, the Packers could be about to lose one of their key weapons, after being so close to getting to the Super Bowl. No matter how you look at this, if they let Aaron Jones walk as a free agent, they’re going to get worse at the position. With the tag at around $8M for running backs this off season, and down on the previous year due to COVID implications, there’s a cheaper alternative here if the Packers wanted to go for it, to bring him back for one more season, and try and push themselves over the line to the Super Bowl
Dak Prescott, QB – Dallas Cowboys
Dak was tagged last season, and here we are again, having the same conversation. At this point, if Dak doesn’t receive a long term deal, I’m going to be confused. I believe his injury will actually work in his favour as the Cowboys discovered what life was like with Andy Dalton after Dak went down with a compound fracture in his ankle in week five. He missed the remainder of the season, and left the field in tears.
Dak deserves to be given a deal with the Cowboys, and at this point I have no idea what they’re playing at. Dak was leading the league in passing before the injury, but I suppose the flip side of this argument was that they tagged him last year, and then only got to see four full weeks of him playing, which isn’t enough time to make a franchise altering decision on him. So he could find himself tagged again. Really though Dallas, watching all those offensive weapons go to waste with Andy Dalton wasn’t enough?
Leonard Williams, DL – New York Giants
Williams was traded from the Jets to the Giants and became one of very few players who didn’t need to move house after he was traded. Williams has been a positive addition to the Giants, but hasn’t found himself under a new contract up until this point.
If you allow Williams to walk into free agency, the 26 year old will be a hot commodity on the open market. It makes sense to keep him in New York as he’s young, very talented, and could be a pillar for a defence that needs rebuilding. The franchise tag could be an option for the Giants with Williams, as they assess their options with the roster.
Justin Simmons, Safety – Denver Broncos
The Broncos can’t let Justin Simmons leave. They’re a team a quarterback away from being a real contender in my eyes. They’ve got all the weapons in place on the offence, with the additions of Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and Melvin Gordon last season. If Drew Lock isn’t the answer, Deshaun Watson could be, and if you’re going to lengths to get yourselves into the playoffs, then keeping your very talented safety in place is going to be vital.
Simmons was another, just like Dak, who was tagged last season. Apparently, it’s likely he gets tagged again this year, so the Broncos have the time available to secure a long term deal with him.