2020 NFL CBA Explained: Franchise Tag

If the new collective bargaining agreement hadn’t passed, teams would’ve had both the franchise and transition tenders at their disposal in the Final League Year of the previous CBA (2020). But the new CBA once again calls for teams to be allowed the usage of just one of the tags per offseason. The franchise (or transition) tag is employed by teams to limit the mobility of one of its upcoming free agents (can be restricted or unrestricted).

Teams can use this designation from the 22nd day preceding until 4 p.m. ET on the eighth day preceding the new league year. The window was initially scheduled to open on February 25 and close on March 10, but CBA negotiations pushed back the deadline to March 16 this season.

Each of the different tags (non-exclusive, exclusive, transition) can be withdrawn by the team at any time before the player signs it. However, the tenders are guaranteed for skill, cap and injury once signed. A player must sign his tender to be traded to another team.

Teams and franchise players can sign multi-year extensions until July 15 (or the Monday after, if that date falls on a weekend). If there is no extension in place by that date, the team and player can only agree to a one-year contract for the current season.

A designated player must sign his tender prior to the Tuesday following Week 10 in order to remain eligible to play in the current season.

Prior Year Salary (PYS): A player’s PYS is composed of his base salary, roster and reporting bonuses, prorated signing bonus and other payments to players for playing in the NFL for the previous league year — except any performance bonuses outside of roster and reporting bonuses. This is important because the PYS is used for the calculations of the tags.

Non-exclusive franchise tag: A player who receives the non-exclusive franchise tag is free to negotiate with other teams. The player receives a one-year deal with a salary set at the greater of (a) the cap percentage average for his position (an amount equal to the sum of the franchise tag figures at a player’s position over the previous five seasons divided by the sum of the salary caps over the previous five seasons multiplied by the current year’s salary cap) OR (b) 120 percent of his PYS (the player’s cap number from the previous season, minus any performance incentives).

Teams that use the non-exclusive franchise tag hold the right of first refusal. If a designated player signs an offer sheet with another team, the player’s previous team has five days to match the offer sheet. Should it decide not to, the player’s original team shall be entitled to draft-choice compensation equivalent to two first-round picks.

Players to receive non-exclusive franchise tag in 2020: RB Derrick Henry (Titans), WR A.J. Green (Bengals), TE Hunter Henry (Chargers), OG Brandon Scherff (Redskins), OG Joe Thuney (Patriots), DT Chris Jones (Chiefs), DT Leonard Williams (Giants), DE Yannick Ngakoue (Jaguars), LB Matt Judon (Ravens), LB Bud Dupree (Steelers), LB Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers), S Anthony Harris (Vikings) and S Justin Simmons (Broncos).

2020 non-exclusive franchise tag salaries:

QB: $26.824 million
RB: $10.278 million
WR: $17.865 million
TE: $10.607 million
OL: $14.781 million
DE: $17.788 million
DT: $16.126 million
LB: $15.828 million
CB: $16.338 million
S: $11.441 million
K/P: $5.019 million

Exclusive franchise tag: A player who receives the exclusive franchise tag cannot negotiate with other teams. The player receives a one-year deal for the greater of (a) the average of the five-largest PYS at his position at the conclusion of the restricted free agent signing period of the current league year (April 17 in 2020) or (b) the amount of the non-exclusive franchise tag.

Last player to receive an exclusive franchise tag: Dak Prescott (with the Cowboys in 2020).

Transition tag: A player who receives the transition tag is free to negotiate with other teams. The player receives a one-year deal for the greater of (a) the cap percentage average (calculation as shown above) of the top 10 greatest PYS at the player’s position or (b) 120 percent of his own PYS. Should such a player sign an offer sheet with a new team, his former team has five days to match the offer sheet. However, should his former team decide not to match, there is no draft-pick compensation tied to the transition tag. If a transition player has not signed an offer sheet with a new team by July 22, he can only negotiate and sign with his prior team that season.

Last player to receive transition tag: Kenyan Drake (with the Cardinals in 2020).

2020 transition tag salaries:

QB: $24.837 million
RB: $8.483 million
WR: $15.680 million
TE: $9.117 million
OL: $13.505 million
DE: $15.184 million
DT: $13.143 million
LB: $13.737 million
CB: $14.197 million
S: $9.860 million
K/P: $4.559 million

Multiple franchise tags: When a player receives the franchise tag for a second time, he’s owed a 120 percent increase of his previous franchise-tag salary (or the tag number for the current season, if higher). If a team places the franchise tag on a player for a third time, the player will receive the greater of (a) the quarterback tag, (b) 120 percent of the average of the top five PYS at his position or (c) 144 percent of his second franchise-tag salary.

As an example, DeMarcus Lawrence received the franchise tag from the Cowboys in 2018 and earned $17.143 million. The franchise tag for defensive ends in 2019 was $17.128 million. Before signing a long-term extension, Lawrence was scheduled to earn $20.5716 million (120 percent of his 2018 salary) due to it being his second franchise tag.

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