NFL Franchise Tag 2021: How Does It Work, Which Players Could Be Tagged?

With Super Bowl LV firmly in the rearview mirror and free agency not on the horizon until next month, the NFL's tagging season begins on Tuesday.

For a two-week period, teams will have the chance to apply either the franchise tag or the transition tag to a designated player, who will then have until July to agree a long-term extension with the team.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know about one of the crucial parts of the moving machine that is the NFL free agency.

What is the franchise tag?

The franchise tag allow teams to restrict a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent movement in exchange for a predetermined one-year salary, giving both parties another 12 months to agree on a contract extension.

The salary for each position is an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position as of a date in April of the current year in which the tag will apply, or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater.

How does the franchise tag work?

Teams have from February 23 until 4 p.m. ET on March 9 to apply the franchise tag or transition tag on a particular player. Players who are tagged have until July 15 to sign the tag, but are not forced to do so.

If they choose not to sign, they can either try and force teams into meeting their financial demands or they can sit out the season altogether, as then-Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell did in 2018 when he declined to sign a $14.5 million franchise tender.

Players who sign the tag have until July 15 to sign long-term deals with their teams. If they do not do so by that deadline, they will have to wait until the next offseason to sign a long-term deal.

Dallas QB Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys attempts a pass against the New York Giants during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 11, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys could use the franchise tag on Prescott for the second consecutive year. Tom Pennington/Getty

What are the three types of tag?

There are two types of franchise tags—the "exclusive rights" tag and the "non-exclusive rights"—and the transition tag.

Under the former, the agents of players who are franchise-tagged can't open negotiations with other teams until the next offseason. This kind of designation can be used three times on the same player.

The "non-exclusive rights" franchise tag, meanwhile, allows players to sign an offer sheet with another franchise, but gives their club the right to match the offer.

If the team declines, it will receive two first-round draft picks from the franchise the player will join.

The transition tag, meanwhile, guarantees the teams using them right of first refusal—which has to be exercised within seven days—to match any offer the player can receive from another team.

Unlike the salary for franchise-tagged players, however, the salary for the transition tag is determined by taking the average of the top 10 players at each position during the past five years.

Which players could be tagged this year?

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott could be tagged for a second consecutive year. The 28-year-old was on track to obliterate several NFL's passing records before suffering a season-ending leg injury in Week 5 against the New York Giants, which derailed the Cowboys season.

Tagging Prescott for a second time would cost Dallas $37.7 million—with his full salary counting against the cap in 2021—but would keep him with the franchise for another year, giving the Cowboys more time to sign him to a long-term extension, which will almost certainly vault Prescott among the league's highest-paid quarterbacks.

Fresh from winning Super Bowl LV earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some major decisions to make of their own with wide receiver Chris Godwin and linebacker Shaquil Barrett both set to become free agents. With 840 receiving yards, seven touchdowns and 65 receptions Godwin was the second-most productive Bucs wide receiver last season, while Barrett, who led the league in sacks in 2019, played under the franchise tag last season and was dominant in the playoffs.

Elsewhere, NFL Network reported Detroit Lions wideout Kenny Golladay is a strong contender to be tagged, while the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos could look to tag offensive tackle Taylor Moton and safety Justin Simmons respectively.

Shaquil Barrett of the Tampa Bay Bucs
Shaquil Barrett #58 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 7 in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs defeated the Chiefs 31-9. Patrick Smith/Getty