There are three types of tags teams can use on a player to keep him from hitting the open market.
Non-exclusive franchise tag: This is the most common tag used by teams. It is a one-year offer to a player for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position, or 120% of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater. A non-exclusive tag allows player to negotiate with other teams. Their original team can either match the offer or elect to receive 2 first-round picks from the team the player signs with. Teams have until July 15th to work out a long-term extension with their franchised player.
Exclusive franchise tag: It is a one-year offer to a player for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position, or 120% of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater. In this case, the player is not allowed to negotiate with other teams. Teams have until July 15th to work out a long-term extension with their franchised player.
Franchise tag values for 2019: QB $24.865M- RB $11.214M – WR $16.787M – TE $10.387M – OL $14.067M – DE $17.128M – DT $15.209M – LB $15.443M – CB $16.022M – S $11.150M – K/P $4.971M
Transition tag: The transition tag is a one-year offer with the value determined by the average of the top-10 salaries at a player’s position. The player is allowed to negotiate with other teams, but his original team can choose to match offer. The team would receive no compensation if it elects not to match the offer. Last offseason, the Bears used the transition tag on CB Kyle Fuller. Fuller signed a lucrative offer sheet with the Packers and the Bears decided to match. In 2015, the Dolphins used the transition tag on TE Charles Clay. Clay signed an offer sheet with the Bills, which Miami decided not to match. The Bills got the player and the Dolphins got zero compensation back.
Unrestricted Free Agent: If you don’t know what this means, well, that’s a problem.
Players who are unrestricted free agents are completely free to sign with any team starting March 13th at 4:00 EST. Teams can officially contact unrestricted free agents starting March 11 during the “legal tampering” period.
Restricted Free Agent: Players who are restricted free agents have an expired contract but have accrued less than three seasons. An accrued season is defined as a player being on a team for at least six regular season games. These players aren’t necessarily “free.”
Their current team will be able to put a tender on them which dictates the value of their next contract and also the compensation (a draft pick) the team would receive if another team decided to match their contract offer.
Teams have four different tender options they can place on their restricted free agent that usually keeps those players from leaving elsewhere.
- First-round tender: Player can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a first-round pick if they don’t match.
- Second-round tender: Player can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a second-round pick if they don’t match.
- Original-round tender: Player can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a pick equal to the round the player was originally selected if they don’t match.
- Right of first refusal: Player can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal. The team will not receive any compensation if they don’t match.
You might be wondering why not just give every player the first-round tender? Each tender has a different value, as shown below, via OverTheCap:
It wouldn’t necessarily make sense to give a player a first-round tender because a team would be committing too much money for that player. This offseason, the Jets placed a second-round tender on WR Robby Anderson, meaning he’ll make over $3M in 2019, unless a different team is willing to offer him an offer sheet and give up a 2nd round pick to the Jets as compensation. The Bucs decided not to use a tender on S Andrew Adams because they don’t think he’s worth at least $2M.
Salary Cap: The Salary Cap is the amount of money that teams are allowed to spend on players’ salaries. Each team has the exact same amount of money to spend, so every team is on the same playing field. The exact salary cap is dictated by the Players Association in the CBA. Under the current CBA, all sources of revenue, including TV contracts, merchandise sales and ticket sales, are added up and divided among the 32 NFL teams. The 2019 salary cap is set for $188.2M. There are ways to get around the salary cap, but that’s for another day.
Base Salary: A player’s base salary is what he’ll earn every week just for being on the roster. It’s paid out in 17 installments after each game.
Guaranteed Money: Guaranteed money consists of every bonus (signing, workout, roster) paid out to the player over the course of the contract. Bonuses are typically spread throughout the life of the contract, but if a player is released, the team must pay him the rest of the bonus due.
Dead Money: Usually when a player is cut or traded, you’ll hear the term “dead money.” Dead money is the guaranteed money left on a player’s contract at the time he’s let go. That money will count against a team’s cap that next year. If a player is cut after June 1, the dead money is split over the next two seasons. Too much dead money usually kills a team’s chances to compete.
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