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Thursday, June 16, 2011
Primer on franchise players

By Pat Yasinskas

With optimism rising on the labor front, the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information have sent out a free-agency primer to help us prepare for whenever the league year starts.

I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of that with you over the coming days to help us all get ready for what should be a very busy free-agent season. We’ll start with the franchise tag and, keep in mind, we don’t know with absolute certainty that the tags will be valid in the new agreement.

But the tag traditionally has been used to protect marquee players and that entails the offer of a one-year contract equal to the average of the top five salaries at that player’s position or 120 percent of that player’s previous year's salary, whichever is greater. Teams can designate a player as an “exclusive” or “non-exclusive” franchise player.

Here’s the definition on those two categories.

Exclusive franchise players: players who have been offered a one-year contract equal to the average of the top five salaries at their position for the current year or the average of the top five salaries at their position at the end of last season or 120 percent of their previous year's salary, whichever is greatest. Exclusive franchise players cannot sign with another club.

Non-exclusive franchise players: players who have been offered a one-year contract equal to the average of the top five salaries at their position at the end of last season or 120 percent of their previous year's salary, whichever is greater. Can negotiate with other clubs but current team has the opportunity to match any offer. If they do not, they will receive two first-round draft picks from player’s new team as compensation.

Prior to the lockout, 14 teams designated franchise players, including the Carolina Panthers with center Ryan Kalil. That ties the record, set in 2009, for the most use of the franchise tag since free agency began in 1993. Only Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick were given exclusive franchise tags.

Here’s a list of players who were given the franchise tag and whether or not they signed the tender.