Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It's NFL franchise tag season. What exactly does that mean?

Starting Wednesday and lasting through 4 p.m. March 1, NFL teams may apply the franchise tag or transition tag to a select few pending free agents. Here's everything you need to know about a somewhat complex issue.

Q: So why does the franchise tag exist?

A: In theory, it's to allow the smaller-market teams to compete with the big-market franchises by letting them lock up their prospective free agents beyond the original time frame of their contracts. Usually the franchise tag is reserved for a team's top pending free agent.

Q: How many franchise tags do teams get?

A: Just one per offseason.

Q: Do the players like it?

A: Probably not, as the teams have most of the leverage. For one, a franchise-tagged player's salary is guaranteed for only that season. If that player suffers an injury or underperforms during a franchise-tag year, it will negatively affect his value on the free agent market. For another, the franchise-tag year forces players to delay a big free agent payday by one season, one in which they almost certainly could have received more money on the open market.

Q: There are three types of tags. Explain them.

A: — An exclusive franchise tag means a team will pay that player no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position, or 120 percent of the player's previous salary, whichever is greater. The player is not allowed to negotiate with other teams.

— A nonexclusive franchise tag involves the same salary offer as an exclusive franchise tag, only the player can negotiate with other teams. The player's current team can match any offer sheet. If the old team declines to match the offer, it gets two first-round picks from the other team as compensation. This is the more commonly used franchise tag.

— By applying the transition tag, a team offers the player a salary that is the average of the top 10 salaries at his position. That player can negotiate with other teams. The player's original team has the right of first refusal to match any offer given to a transition-tagged player by another team. If the original team decides to retain the player, it must agree to the contract terms offered by the other team. If the original team decides not to match the offer and the player leaves, it receives nothing in compensation. A team can use the transition tag only if it hasn't used the franchise tag in a given offseason.

Thursday is the first day for NFL teams to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

Q: Can a player be given the franchise tag in consecutive years?

A: Yes, but it's a costly move for teams. For a player to be given the tag in two straight years, a team has to pay him 120 percent of his previous salary. If a team wants to franchise a player in three straight years, it would have to pay him 144 percent of his previous salary.

Q: If a player gets a franchise tag, then what happens?

A: The two sides then have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract. If no agreement is reached, the player plays that season under the terms of the one-year franchise tag. Then everything starts over again in the next offseason.

Q: So how often is this used?

A: Less and less these days as the salary cap keeps escalating, giving teams more freedom to work out long-term deals with their players. Last season, only 10 players were given franchise tags, and though that was more than in 2014 and 2015 combined, it was down 11 from 2012.

Q: Who could get the tag in 2017?

A: Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who has threatened not to play if he gets tagged for the second straight year even though it would pay him more than any other safety in the league. Kansas City also would like to keep two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe from hitting free agency and could instead use the tag on him.

It's already been reported that the Steelers will apply the franchise tag to running back Le'Veon Bell with hopes of working out a long-term deal.

The Cardinals already have said that they'll apply the franchise tag to linebacker Chandler Jones.

The Patriots likely will use the franchise tag on either linebacker Dont'a Hightower and tight end Martellus Bennett.

Comments
Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

One of the dominant storylines heading into Monday Night Football between the first-place Buccaneers and the last-place Steelers will be the things we didn’t expect to see. It’s the team that usually melts down against the team that actua...
Updated: 2 hours ago
McFarland on FitzMagic: ‘Play the guy with the hot hand’

McFarland on FitzMagic: ‘Play the guy with the hot hand’

TAMPA — Why wait until Monday Night Football? We got former Bucs defensive tackle Booger McFarland, the field analyst for the ESPN crew, to break down the Bucs-Steelers matchup. In his straight-forward, brutally honest style, McFarland dissects...
Updated: 7 hours ago
How Booger McFarland rose from a Tampa FM station to ‘Monday Night Football’

How Booger McFarland rose from a Tampa FM station to ‘Monday Night Football’

TAMPA — When Booger McFarland auditioned for the new Monday Night Football broadcast team, producer Jay Rothman was blown away."I closed my eyes and said, 'Holy (bleep), I feel like I'm listening to football's Charles Barkley,'' Rothman said.Si...
Published: 09/22/18
Bucs have to be ‘reasonable,’ about their plan to play defensive tackle Vita Vea

Bucs have to be ‘reasonable,’ about their plan to play defensive tackle Vita Vea

Defensive tackle Vita Vea made it through practice this week, his first since straining his left calf muscle July 29. But coach Dirk Koetter was pretty non-committal about how much, or if, Vea will play Monday night against the Steelers."When you've ...
Published: 09/22/18

How Tampa Bay is savoring its FitzMagic carpet ride

TAMPA — Bucs fan Dallas Collins has it all planned out.On Monday night, he and his family are going to whip up an Irish Boiled Dinner. You know, corned beef, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and onions.Then they're going to sit down and watch the Buc...
Published: 09/22/18
Bucs PK Chandler Catanzaro insists he’s curse-free

Bucs PK Chandler Catanzaro insists he’s curse-free

TAMPA — When placekicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter at New Orleans and a point-after attempt last week against the Eagles, he left the door open for a possible comeback by the Saints and Eagles.The Bucs...
Published: 09/21/18
Ryan Fitzpatrick said his only goal was to go 3-0 while Jameis Winston was suspended

Ryan Fitzpatrick said his only goal was to go 3-0 while Jameis Winston was suspended

TAMPA — Shortly after he learned he would be starting the first three games this season, Ryan Fitzpatrick saw the opportunity to do something few thought would be possible.No, not take Jameis Winston's job.The Bucs starting quarterback was susp...
Published: 09/21/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Mailbag: Bucs-Steelers, Vita Vea, Rays’ playoff chances, more

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Mailbag: Bucs-Steelers, Vita Vea, Rays’ playoff chances, more

It's our mailbag episode, with questions about how many games the Bucs can win this season, the reason for their offensive explosion and what we can expect from Vita Vea this week against the Steelers.Plus, what moves should the Rays make this offsea...
Published: 09/21/18
FitzMagic is everywhere, even in Cleveland

FitzMagic is everywhere, even in Cleveland

It feels like there's FitzMagic in the air everywhere these days, even in Cleveland.When Baker Mayfield came off the bench Thursday night to lead the Browns to a 21-17 win over the Jets — Cleveland's first victory in 635 days — he became ...
Published: 09/21/18
Bucs DT Vita Vea, CB Brent Grimes return to practice, could play vs. Steelers

Bucs DT Vita Vea, CB Brent Grimes return to practice, could play vs. Steelers

TAMPA — For the first time in seven weeks, Vita Vea played football Thursday.At least it looked like the rookie defensive tackle was playing football when he walked to the Bucs' practice field wearing a helmet and full pads and took a three-poi...
Published: 09/20/18