NFL teams can begin using franchise and transition designations on potential free agents beginning Monday through March 5.
A few things to know about franchise tags under the current labor agreement:
One at a time: Teams can name only one franchise player at a time.
Who qualifies: Players eligible for the franchise tag include those scheduled to become restricted or unrestricted free agents.
Compensation: Teams must offer franchise players one-year deals worth what top players at their positions have commanded. The prices vary by position and which type of tag a team applies. New methods for calculation have produced lower franchise tag prices under the new labor agreement.
Two tag types: Non-exclusive franchise tags allow players to negotiate with other teams. Exclusive tags prevent players from negotiating with other teams. Teams naming non-exclusive franchise players retain the right to match outside offers or receive two first-round picks from the signing team should they decide against matching. Teams favor non-exclusive tags.
Two tag prices: Exclusive franchise players receive offers larger than those for non-exclusive franchise players. Prices max out when a team uses the tag on the same player a third time, which is the limit.
Guaranteed money: One-year franchise salaries become guaranteed once the player signs the offer. Teams could try to avoid paying if a "neutral physician" determined the player in question had failed to "establish or maintain his excellent physical condition."
Right to withdraw tag: Teams can withdraw franchise tags if the affected players remain unsigned. Affected players would then become unrestricted free agents.
Deadline for long-term deals: Teams have until July 16 to sign their franchise players to long-term contracts. The date is usually July 15, but it is the 16th this year because the 15th falls on a Sunday. Past that date, teams can sign their franchise players only to one-year deals. They cannot reach extensions until after their final regular-season games.
Rules for transition players are somewhat similar, but prices are lower. Teams could name two transition players in a given year, but only if they did not name a franchise player.
Players have complained for years about franchise tags restricting their options, but they actually lost ground on the issue during the latest round of labor negotiations.