The NFL franchise tag period opens Tuesday afternoon at 4 pm, meaning teams can begin utilizing the one-year option to try to keep an impending free agent. The move gives the player a one-year, fully guaranteed contract, worth the average of some of the top players at the respective position. Exactly how much money, and how much freedom to talk to another team, the player receives is based on the type of franchise tag applied.
The calculation for the franchise tag numbers involves the salary cap along with the average salaries of the top players at the position. Since the 2016 salary cap has not yet been officially set, the tag values have not been locked in yet. The tag period, however, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, begins 22 days before the start of the new league year and ends after two weeks - meaning teams will be operating initially off of estimates of the tag value.
The new league year will begin March 9th at 4 pm Eastern. At that time, free agency will begin.
The three types of tags available to teams are:
Exclusive-Rights Franchise Tag
The player is locked into his one-year deal with the team and has no ability to negotiate with another team. Salary is based on the average of the top five players at the respective position, or 120 percent of the player's salary from the previous year, whichever is more.
The player is tendered at the franchise tag amount, but he has the ability to negotiate with other teams for a long-term deal. If he signs an offer sheet from another team, his original club has the right to match the contract. If the original team decides to not match the offer, they will receive two first-round draft picks from the new team.
The player is tendered but is free to negotiate with another team. If he signs an offer sheet with another team, his original team receives the right to match the deal. No draft-pick compensation is awarded if the original team decides not to match the new deal. Salary is based on the average of the top ten players at the respective position.
Other information about the tag:
Long-Term Contract Negotiation Deadline
After a player is tagged, he and the team can still work on a long-term contract designed to replace the tag. Often, both sides try to reach a long-term contract, giving the player more stability and injury insurance, while the team can lower a high salary cap number by turning money into a signing bonus. The sides have until July 15 to reach a deal, or else the player must play the 2016 season under the tag.
Tag Limits and Withdrawl
Teams can only tag one player a year, choosing to use a franchise tag or the transition tag. Any time before the player officially signs the tender, a team can withdraw the offer for the player. He immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent. The team cannot use the tag on another player.
Franchise Tag Projections for 2016
Quarterback - $19.8 million
Wide receiver - $14.5 million
Running back - $11.8 million
Tight end - $9.1 million
Offensive line - $13.7 million
Defensive end - $15.5 million
Defensive tackle - $13.4 million
Linebacker - $14.1 million
Cornerback - $14.8 million
Safety - $10.7 million
Punter/Kicker - $4.5 million
Miami Dolphins possible tag targets
The Dolphins really have two free agents who could warrant the tag: running back Lamar Miller and defensive end Olivier Vernon. It would be expensive for Miami to tag either player, and the $11.8 million estimated salary for a running back could make it cost-prohibitive for the Dolphins to tag Miller. Veron's $15.5 million is a big number, but, if Vernon hits the open market, he could see a contract offer approaching that number as an annual average value.
Miller appears to be the top priority for Miami to re-sign this offseason, with a contract likely in the $5-million a season range. That could then make Vernon the sole franchise tag option for the Dolphins. It is not likely, based on the salary cap situation for the Dolphins, but it will remain a possibility until the window closes on March 1.