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2021 NFL Franchise Tag window: Will Dolphins use tag this year?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s franchise tag window opened today, allowing teams to begin placing a one-year tender on a player scheduled to become a free agent this year. There likely will not be a rush of activity in the next couple days, but around the league we should see some players have the tag applied to them as we get closer to the deadline.

What does that mean? Here are the rules for the franchise (and transition) tag.

Window

February 23 - March 9

Players who are tagged have until July 15 to work out a new contract with their team. After that, if no long-term deal is reached, they will play the season on the one-year tag.

Types

There are actually three types of tags, and the salary for each tag is slightly different.

Exclusive franchise tag - the player is only able to negotiate with his current team; the salary is the average of the top five salaries for the player’s position that year (or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is higher).

Non-exclusive franchise tag - the player is able to negotiate a new contract with another team, but the current team would be allowed to match any offer; if the team does not match the deal, the new team would then send their next two first-round picks to the previous team. Salary is the average of the top five tag salaries for the players position over the past five years (or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is higher). The non-exclusive franchise tag is the most commonly used tag.

Transition tag - the player is able to negotiate a new contract with another team, but the current team would be allowed to match any offer’ if the team does not match the deal, no compensation is provided to the team. Salary is the average of the top ten salaries at the player’s position that year.

Salaries for 2021

The salaries are not calculated as straight numbers, however, as they are calculated as a percentage of the salary cap. Since the 2021 salary cap is not yet set (teams have been told it will be no lower than $180 million), the salaries for 2021 can only be estimates. According to OverTheCap.com, the current estimates for the tags (non-exclusive and transition) are:

QB - $24.1M / $21.7M
WR - $16.4M / $14.3M
RB - $11.1M / $8.9M
TE - $10.2M / $8.6M
OL - $14.5M / $13.2M
DE - $17.8M / $14.8M
DT - $14.2M / $11.4M
LB - $15.7M / $13.4M
CB - $15.3M / $13.2M
S - $11.2M / $9.6M
ST - $4.8M / $4.4M

The salaries are fully guaranteed.

Using the tag

Teams get one each offseason. They can choose to not use it, or they can place it on any player scheduled to become a free agent when the new league year starts. Once they place the tag - including which type of tag they are using - that is it. Teams can rescind the tag at any time, but they do not get to move it to a new player. If a player has the tag rescinded after free agency has opened, he immediately becomes a free agent and can sign with any club.

A player may be tagged up to three times, though it is rare to see a third use of a tag simply because it becomes expensive to keep the player.

Who will get tagged?

The Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott are thought to be working on a new long-term contract, but if they cannot reach an agreement by March 9, Prescott could be tagged for a second-straight year. Other players include Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin, Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal, Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton, Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, Washington Football Team guard Brandon Scherff, and Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay.

Miami Dolphins franchise tag possibilities

The Dolphins have 13 players scheduled to hit free agency this year. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, wide receiver Isaiah Ford, wide receiver Mack Hollins, running back Matt Breida, running back DeAndre Washington, offensive tackle Julién Davenport, center Ted Karras, defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, linebacker Elandon Roberts, linebacker Kamu Grigier-Hill, linebacker Vince Biegel, safety Kavon Frazier, and punter Matt Haack all have expiring contracts.

No one in that group jumps out as a franchise tag target. If Miami is going to use the tag, Godchaux probably would be the top contender, but a $14.2 million salary seems too steep. The Dolphins have not used the franchise tag since 2018, when they placed it on wide receiver Jarvis Landry before trading him tot he Cleveland Browns. It just does not seem like they will use it this year.