With free agency around the corner — and the very real prospect of the 2010 league year beginning without a salary cap — this edition of the NFList takes a closer look at players who could receive the franchise or transition tag.
Free agents can receive either the so-called "exclusive" or "non-exclusive" franchise tags. A free agent receiving the "non-exclusive" tag must be tendered a one-year contract that is the greater of (1) 120 percent of his previous year's salary or (2) the average of the top five salaries at the position at which he played the most games in the previous league year. Also, the free agent receiving the tag can negotiate with other teams, but his team can match an offer from another club; should it decline, it will receive two first-round picks as compensation.
The "exclusive" tag bars a free agent from negotiating with other teams. It guarantees a free agent a one-year contract the greater of (1) the average of the top five salaries at his position as of the end of restricted free agency in 2010 or (2) either of the criteria listed above for a non-exclusive tag.
In a year with a salary cap, teams can exercise one franchise or one transition tag, the latter of which also requires a one-year tender offer but at a lower salary than a franchise player. A player who receives the transition tag can sign an offer sheet elsewhere, but his current team has the right of first refusal.
However, in an uncapped year, teams can use an additional transition tag. Most importantly, an uncapped year would require players to have six accrued seasons to become unrestricted free agents, a development that would reduce the number of players who could garner the franchise tag.
Here are the franchise and transition numbers for each position, along with a list of players who could receive the franchise or transition tag as determined by the PFW staff. Players who would be restricted free agents in an uncapped year but unrestricted free agents in a capped year are denoted with an asterisk. (Positions are listed in descending order from highest franchise tender to lowest):
Tenders: $16.405 million (franchise); $14.546 million (transition).
Franchise-tag candidates: None. Teams usually lock up promising QBs early.
Tenders: $12.398 million; $10.193 million.
Franchise-tag candidate: Raiders DE Richard Seymour. Oakland traded a first-round draft pick for Seymour and doesn't want to lose him after one season.
Tenders: $10.731 million; $9.142 million.
Franchise-tag candidates: Steelers OT Willie Colon*, Saints OG Jahri Evans*, Chargers OT Marcus McNeill.*
Skinny: Young tackles are at a premium.
Tenders: $9.680 million; $8.373 million.
Franchise-tag candidates: Colts MLB Gary Brackett, Broncos OLB Elvis Dumervil*, Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman*, Buccaneers MLB Barrett Ruud*, Texans MLB DeMeco Ryans*.
Skinny: In a capped year, the market for LBs would be robust.
Tenders: $9.566 million; $8.056 million.
Franchise-tag candidate: Texans CB Dunta Robinson. Robinson received the franchise tag last year and could get it again in an uncapped year.
Tenders: $9.521 million; $8.651 million.
Franchise-tag candidates: Chargers WR Vincent Jackson*, Broncos WR Brandon Marshall.*
Skinny: Both are No. 1-caliber receivers.
Tenders: $8.156 million; $7.151 million.
Franchise-tag candidates: None. Teams seeking starting RBs will have to look hardest in the draft, not free agency.
Tenders: $7.003 million; $6.353 million.
Franchise-tag candidates: Titans DT Tony Brown*, Steelers NT Casey Hampton, 49ers NT Aubrayo Franklin, Patriots NT Vince Wilfork.
Skinny: Wilfork is one of the NFL's top interior linemen. Hampton and Franklin could be coveted by teams employing the 3-4.
Tenders: $6.455 million; $6.011 million.
Franchise-tag candidates: Rams S O.J. Atogwe*, Colts S Antoine Bethea*, Packers S Nick Collins*.
Skinny: All three safeties are ballhawks.
Tenders: $5.908 million; $5.248 million.
Franchise-tag candidate: Texans TE Owen Daniels*. He comes off a season-ending knee injury but is a force when healthy.
Tenders: $2.814 million; $2.629 million.
Franchise-tag candidates: Falcons P Michael Koenen*, Raiders PK Sebastian Janikowski, Steelers PK Jeff Reed.
Skinny: The low franchise number makes using the tag attractive to some clubs.
PFW has launched its brand-new NFL Draft Newsletter series, with the third issue focusing on underclassmen and how they've panned out over the past 20 years to be published next week. It includes a comprehensive list of all underclassmen who have declared for the draft since they became eligible to do so in 1990, as well as where they were chosen in the draft. Produced by PFW's player personnel department under the direction of Nolan Nawrocki, the series consists of four information-packed issues. For more info or to subscribe — click here for PDF e-pub or here for print format. You can also find details about other draft-related publications in the PFW store.