A few quick notes on 2012 franchise tags

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
11:40
AM ET
NFL teams can begin using franchise and transition designations on potential free agents beginning Monday through March 5.

Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, Arizona's Calais Campbell and San Francisco's Dashon Goldson appear to be the most likely candidates for franchise tags among NFC West players.

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.

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