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Tag time: Franchise, transition window opens Tuesday

Lamar Jackson and a host of potential unrestricted free agents could be shown the trap door that is the NFL franchise tag when the window for NFL teams to apply franchise and transition markets opens Tuesday. The tag window closes on March 7. Free agency begins March 15.

Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens had contract talks on at least three separate occasions since June 2022. Those conversations weren’t fruitful, and the two sides are reportedly far apart as the self-represented Jackson seeks fully guaranteed salaries on a long-term deal.

Baltimore’s conundrum was created in part by the fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract Deshaun Watson with the Cleveland Browns.

The Ravens and others can use the franchise tag to retain refusal rights in free agency, or a cheaper insurance policy with fewer guarantees, the transition tag. There are two franchise tag types available to general managers: the non-exclusive franchise tag is most typical and assures a player a one-year salary tabulated by finding the average of the top five salaries at a position over the last five seasons. Because the tag is non-exclusive, other teams can negotiate with the tagged player, but his current team can choose to match any contract offer or choose to receive two first-round draft picks in return.

The exclusive franchise tag has only been applied once in the past seven seasons. The Dallas Cowboys used it in negotiations with Dak Prescott, prohibiting him from talking to other teams. But the exclusive tag comes with a price. For example, the Ravens would be indebted to Jackson for a 2023 salary hold of $44.2 million on the exclusive tag. Baltimore is over the projected 2023 salary cap as of Monday, and clearing the cap space to use the exclusive tag could create more headaches with deferred salaries in future years. A less-beneficial option for GMs, the transition tag gives a player’s current team refusal rights to match any contract offer. However, if the team opts not to match an offer from another team, no compensation is owed.

The 2023 franchise and transition tag values as compiled by the NFL Players Association:


Franchise tag value Transition tag value QB $32,416,000 $29,504,000 LB $20,926,000 $17,478,000 WR $19,743,000 $17,991,000 DE $19,727,000 $17,452,000 DT $18,937,000 $16,068,000 OL $18,244,000 $16,660,000 CB $18,140,000 $15,791,000 S $14,460,000 $11,867,000 TE $11,345,000 $9,716,000 RB $10,091,000 $8,429,000 K/P $5,393,000 $4,869,000

–Field Level Media


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