NFL franchise tags, explained: Updated position values, deadlines and rules to know for 2024

Feb. 20 marks the start of an intriguing portion of the NFL offseason. 

With the Super Bowl in the rearview, the focus in football is on 2024. With a new year on the horizon, contracts are expiring for certain players, meaning negotiations are starting to work out a new deal. 

For specific members of the league, the franchise tag is an option. The tag ensures that clubs can lock in first priority over its current players, limiting the top talents from hitting the open market. A franchise tag allows a club to own either exclusive negotiating rights or matching rights over its players.

This summer, there are a number of players who stand out as candidates to be tagged. That list includes Bengals WR Tee Higgins, Panthers OLB Brian Burns, Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins, Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr. and Jaguars LB Josh Allen. 

Franchise tags have become more prominent in the NFL in recent years, but it is slightly on the decline. There were only six handed out last year, continuing a declining trend of usages among NFL teams. 

Teams are limited to only one franchise tag per offseason. While there are three different types of tags — exclusive, non-exclusive and transition — teams can only decide to use one during the offseason.

The Sporting News is here to explain how the franchise tags work and what the values are in 2024.

MORE: Way-too-early 2024 NFL power rankings

What is a franchise tag in the NFL?

Non-exclusive franchise tag

Definition and rules: The non-exclusive franchise tender shall be a one-year NFL player contract for …

— (A), The average of the five largest prior year salaries for players at the position at which the franchise player participated in the most plays during the prior league year, which average shall be calculated by:

  1. Summing the amounts of the franchise tags for players at that position for the five preceding league years
  2. Dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the salary caps for the five preceding league years
  3. Multiplying the resulting percentage by the salary cap for the upcoming league year

— or (B), 120 percent of his prior year salary, whichever is greater.

If the team extends the tender pursuant to this subsection, the player shall be permitted to negotiate a player contract with any club, except that draft choice compensation of two first round draft selections shall be made with respect to such player in the event he signs with the new club.

Meaning: This is by far the most common tag applied to players for a number of reasons. Mainly, teams applying the tag have the ability to match any offer put on the table by another team, but it also costs them less in the case that no other team puts in an offer on the player. The non-exclusive franchise tag cost is determined by 120 percent of the player’s cap number from the previous season or the average of the five largest prior year salaries at the player’s position.

The NFL team that puts the non-exclusive tag on a player can match an offer sheet extended from any other team. Should the team decide to decline to match the offer, the team that tagged the player will receive two first-round picks from the team that signed the player to the team.

Exclusive franchise tag

Definition and rules: The exclusive franchise tender shall be a one-year NFL player contract for …

— (A) the average of the five largest salaries in player contracts for that league year as of the end of the restricted free-agent signing period that league year

— or (B) the amount of the required tender under the subsection above, whichever is greater.

Meaning: Since 2012, there have only been four players hit with the exclusive franchise tag: Drew Brees (2012), Von Miller (2016), Kirk Cousins (2017) and Le’Veon Bell (2017). Teams placing the exclusive franchise tag on another are essentially acknowledging that they know a player would have a huge market and won’t run the risk of losing them, while also saying they can’t sign a player to an extension.

If a player is hit with the exclusive franchise tag, they will not hit the open market. Their price tag will be limited to either the average of the five largest salaries in player contracts for that active league year or the amount of the non-exclusive tag only if the non-exclusive number is larger (which rarely, if ever, happens). The only way a player can play the following season for a different team is if he is traded by his current team.

MORE: Updated NFL first-round mock draft from 1-32

Transition tag

Definition and rules: Each club shall be permitted to designate one player who would otherwise be an unrestricted free agent as a transition player … during the same designation period as the franchise
player designation period.

Any club that designates a transition player shall receive the rights of first refusal specified in this article notwithstanding the number of his accrued seasons. Any transition player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a player contract with any club during the period from the first day of the league year following the expiration of his last player contract to July 22, and any club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a player contract with such player, without penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to, draft choice compensation between clubs of any kind, subject only to the prior club’s right of first refusal.

Any club that designates a transition player shall be deemed on the first day of the league year following the expiration of the player’s last contract to have automatically tendered the player a one-year NFL player contract for …

— (A) the cap percentage average of the ten largest prior year salaries for players at the position

— or (B) 120 percent of his prior year salary, whichever is greater.

The tender may be withdrawn at any time, but if such tender is withdrawn, the player immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent. For purposes of this subsection, the “transition tag” for any league year is the average of the ten largest prior year salaries for players at that position.

Meaning: Another tag that is less not often used, the transition tag operates in a similar fashion to the non-exclusive tag, but with a few catches. The price tag is determined by the cap percentage average of the 10 largest prior year salaries at a player’s position or 120 percent of his previous season’s salary, whichever is higher.

A player on the transition tag can negotiate with other teams like those on the non-exclusive tag and can be extended an offer sheet. However, if the player’s current team can’t match the offer of the other team, that player can sign with the other team, which would not have to provide any form of compensation to his previous team.

NFL franchise tag deadline 2024

  • Date: Tuesday, March 5

Teams have until Tuesday, March 5 at 4 p.m. ET to place a franchise tag on a player. 

If a team makes the decision to tag a player, they can still sign that player to a long-term extension. For example, the Ravens placed the franchise tag on QB Lamar Jackson in 2023, but later negotiated a five-year contract

However, if a new deal is not made by July 15, those players will be forced to play out the year on the tag. If they choose not to sign the tag, they will be ineligible to play for any other team for the entirety of the season.

How many times can a team franchise tag a player in the NFL?

Teams are limited to using the franchise tag three times on a player. While it can put a bind on a player’s future, it also can become quite lucrative if someone is tagged that many times.

A player tagged for a second consecutive season would be owed 120 percent of their previous season’s salary. A third straight year would net a player at least 144 percent of the previous year’s salary. So the more a team tags a player, the more expensive they become. 

MORE: Can the Chiefs three-peat? The odds are better than you think

NFL franchise tag values for 2024

The value of the franchise tag is based on the average of the top five salaries at a given position over the past five years, and adjusted for the salary cap figure for a given season. This year, every non-special teams position has a non-exclusive franchise tag value above $11 million. 

The exclusive tag numbers will not be known until after the restricted free agency period.

Position Non-exclusive tag value Transition tag value
Quarterback $36.293 million $31.158 million
Running back $11.326 million $10.104 million
Wide receiver $20.672 million $19.398 million
Tight end $12.027 million $10.564 million
Offensive line $19.885 million $19.718 million
Defensive end $20.205 million $20.135 million
Defensive tackle $20.943 million $15.798 million
Linebacker $22.748 million $18.730 million
Cornerback $18.762 million $15.889 million
Safety $16.224 million $13.957 million
Kicker/punter $5.670 million $5.286 million

NFL franchise tagged players

Below are the players that have been hit with the franchise tag since 2015.

* – transition tag
** – exclusive franchise tag
*** – tag rescinded

2023

Player Position Team
Saquon Barkley RB Giants
Lamar Jackson QB Ravens
Tony Pollard RB Cowboys
Josh Jacobs RB Raiders
Evan Engram TE Jaguars
Daron Payne DT Commanders

2022

Player Position Team
Chris Godwin WR Buccaneers
Cam Robinson OT Jaguars
Davante Adams WR Packers
Dalton Schultz TE Cowboys
Orlando Brown OT Chiefs
Jessie Bates III S Bengals
David Njoku TE Browns
Mike Gesicki TE Dolphins

2021

Player Position Team
Chris Godwin WR Buccaneers
Taylor Moton OT Panthers
Dak Prescott QB Cowboys (signed long term)
Allen Robinson WR Bears
Marcus Maye S Jets
Marcus Williams S Saints
Leonard Williams DT Giants (signed long term)
Justin Simmons S Broncos (signed long term)
Cam Robinson OT Jaguars
Brandon Scherff G Commanders

2020

Player Position Team
Shaquil Barrett LB Buccaneers
Kenyan Drake* RB Cardinals
Bud Dupree OLB Steelers
A.J. Green WR Bengals
Anthony Harris S Vikings
Derrick Henry RB Titans
Hunter Henry TE Chargers
Chris Jones DT Chiefs
Matthew Judon LB Ravens
Yannick Ngakoue DE Jaguars (traded to Vikings)
Dak Prescott** QB Cowboys
Brandon Scherff G Washington Football Team
Justin Simmons S Broncos
Joe Thuney G Patriots
Leonard Williams DT Giants

2019

Player Position Team
Frank Clark DE Seahawks
Jadeveon Clowney DE Texans
Dee Ford LB Chiefs
Robbie Gould K 49ers
Grady Jarrett DT Falcons
Demarcus Lawrence DE Cowboys

2018

Player Position Team
Jarvis Landry WR Dolphins
Lamarcus Joyner DB Rams
Ziggy Ansah DE Lions
Demarcus Lawrence DE Cowboys
Kyle Fuller* CB Bears

2017

Player Position Team
Kirk Cousins** QB Redskins
Le’Veon Bell** RB Steelers
Trumaine Johnson CB Rams
Kawann Short DT Panthers
Chandler Jones DE Cardinals

2016

Player Position Team
Kirk Cousins QB Redskins
Muhammad Wilkerson DE Jets
Justin Tucker K Ravens
Josh Norman*** CB Panthers
Eric Berry S Chiefs
Von Miller** OLB Broncos
Alshon Jeffrey WR Bears
Trumaine Johnson CB Rams
Cordy Glenn OT Bills

2015

Player Position Team
Demaryius Thomas WR Broncos
Justin Houston OLB Chiefs
Dez Bryant WR Cowboys
Jason Pierre-Paul DE Giants
Stephen Gostkowski K Patriots
Charles Clay* TE Dolphins

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