NFL franchise tag guide: What all 32 teams should do with key decision

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The first significant waypoint of the 2023 NFL offseason will be crossed at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, when the league’s teams can begin assigning franchise or transition tags, giving each club the opportunity to restrict the departure of a pending free agent.

In a nutshell, the ‘exclusive’ franchise tag is the most lucrative of the one-year tenders, averaging the top current salaries at a given position and preventing a player from negotiating with other clubs. The ‘non-exclusive’ franchise and transition tag tenders have incrementally diluted values, based on positions, but allow players to negotiate elsewhere while giving their current organization the chance to match outside offers. A team signing a franchised player would lose two first-round picks as compensation if his current employer declines to match. No draft compensation switches hands if a transition tag offer goes unmatched. Players tagged in consecutive years are due a 20% raise if it represents a more valuable tender.

NFL franchise tag values

These are the 2023 tag amounts, by position, for the non-exclusive franchise tag, the most commonly used:

QB: $32.4 million

RB: $10.1 million

WR: $19.7 million

TE: $11.3 million

OL: $18.2 million

DE: $19.7 million

DT: $18.9 million

LB: $20.9 million

CB: $18.1 million

S: $14.5 million

K/P: $5.4 million

The window to use tags closes March 7. As such, here’s a bit of advice for all 32 teams, listed alphabetically, as they weigh their decisions over the next two weeks (salary-cap projections courtesy of OverTheCap):

Arizona Cardinals

None: Be nice to keep a youngster like DE Zach Allen, but he also may no longer be a scheme fit nor worth what it costs to tag a defensive end given he’s not much of a pass rusher.

Atlanta Falcons

RT Kaleb McGary: Tagging a right tackle is a dicier proposition given the tender basically grants left tackle money. But the Falcons have to strongly consider it in McGary’s case since they have the funds (approximately $57 million), and the 28-year-old former first-rounder is coming off a breakout season when he was graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 right tackle.

Baltimore Ravens

QB Lamar Jackson: They can’t let him go for nothing, right? And they need to bring him back … right? Yet even the tag comes with significant considerations, as the exclusive quarterback version is expected to be significantly more (approximately $45 million) than the standard $32.4 million. Regardless, a tag is the way to go – and the exclusive one is the better option as it show more of a commitment to Jackson and doesn’t put the Ravens in a position of matching a potentially untenable offer … while still giving Baltimore additional time to craft an extension or the alternative of doing a trade if that eventually becomes the most feasible course of action.

Buffalo Bills

LB Tremaine Edmunds: The two-time Pro Bowler won’t turn 25 until May and has been at the center of a defense ranking first or second in points allowed in three of the past four seasons. Still, not exactly simple for a team currently projected to be nearly $17 million over budget.

Carolina Panthers

None: Get used to seeing this – but no one worthy … and no money available anyway.

Chicago Bears

None: They’ve got nearly $100 million to dole out in free agency … and need not waste a dime tagging one of their own after posting the league’s worst record (3-14) in 2022.

Cincinnati Bengals

None: S Jessie Bates III, 26 at the end of February, is a solid player … but not worth paying $15.5 million after he was previously franchised in 2022.

Cleveland Browns

None: They’re $13 million overspent and only own one of the draft’s top 95 picks as they continue paying off the trade for QB Deshaun Watson. This is a team that needs to stretch its budget … once it has one.

Dallas Cowboys

RB Tony Pollard: Despite the broken leg he suffered in the playoffs, the 25-year-old Pro Bowler was probably this team’s most critical – and certainly most explosive – offensive player in 2022. Tagging a back is eminently reasonable, but the capped-out Cowboys will surely have to redo RB Ezekiel Elliott’s deal and/or potentially release longtime LT Tyron Smith.

Detroit Lions

RB Jamaal Williams: A guy who rushed for a team-high 1,066 yards and league-high 17 TDs completely outperformed his two-year, $6 million pact. A tag might seem excessive for a player coming off a career year, yet Williams seems like a glue guy for a crew on the rise despite the fleeting nature of his position.

Denver Broncos

None: Coming off a 5-12 campaign, new head coach Sean Payton should probably start looking for his own guys rather than wasting time trying to keep the ones who failed in 2022.

Green Bay Packers

None: No one worthy … and no money available anyway, especially if they wind up having to give QB Aaron Rodgers his $58.3 million bonus.

Houston Texans

None: They’ve got more than $37 million to spend. Their 11 collective wins over the past three seasons are as good an indication as any of why none need be spent on their free agents.

Indianapolis Colts

None: GM Chris Ballard likes to reinvest in his roster … to the degree that’s worked in recent years. But it’s time to rely on the draft and, possibly, outside free agents if Indy is going to re-emerge as a legit factor in the AFC South.

Jacksonville Jaguars

TE Evan Engram: A team that’s nearly $23 million over the cap may not have the luxury of a tag. But if the Jags start moving money around, Engram would be a logical choice coming off a strong second half of the 2022 season – including 12 catches for 124 yards and a TD in postseason. A tight end tag is also much cheaper than doing one for RT Jawaan Taylor … though it is worth noting there will be abundant TE options in the draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

LT Orlando Brown Jr.: Close to a no-brainer, and Brown told USA TODAY Sports after the Super Bowl that he expects to be back and protecting QB Patrick Mahomes’ blind side in 2023. A franchise tag would ensure Brown would make $20 million in 2023 given he was franchised last year.

Las Vegas Raiders

RB Josh Jacobs: Easy to say they goofed by declining his fifth-year option last year given Jacobs erupted to win the rushing title (1,653 yards) in 2022 while also leading the NFL with 2,053 yards from scrimmage and being voted All-Pro for the first time. However franchising Jacobs won’t cost much more than his declined $8 million option for 2023.

Los Angeles Chargers

None: No one worthy … and no money available anyway.

Los Angeles Rams

K Matt Gay: One of the league’s more reliable specialists, he also plays a position with by far the least expensive tag.

Miami Dolphins

None: They have to reduce their payroll by $16 million at a time when they only own five draft picks after owner Stephen Ross’ tampering violations led to forfeiture of the Fins’ first-rounder. That means those precious free agent bucks will have to go a long way toward fleshing out the depth chart.

Minnesota Vikings

DL Dalvin Tomlinson: More than $23 million in the red, the NFC North champs can’t afford Tomlinson at the moment. Conversely, a 31st-ranked defense can hardly afford to lose one of its few reliable players.

New England Patriots

None: A team about to have $33 million in spending power is better off looking externally than within to fortify a roster in need of repairs, especially on offense.

New Orleans Saints

None: No one worthy … and no money available anyway.

New York Giants

RB Saquon Barkley or QB Daniel Jones: No team has a more intriguing dilemma. And, yes, this is a copout answer, but the G-Men want both players back – so this basically becomes a matter of strategy or simply whether GM Joe Schoen can re-sign one of his offensive stalwarts before March 7 so he can tag the other. On the plus side, Schoen has $47 million at his disposal. Barkley is the better and more-established player, so on one level, it makes sense to secure him with the tag. Yet given the running back salary structure maxes out at $16 million annually – and Barkley wouldn’t necessarily command that much – logic might dictate getting him locked up immediately for the long term and using the tag on Jones. Not only did the quarterback just change agents, he’s only had one stellar NFL season – which is why the Giants declined his fifth-year option last offseason. Nothing wrong with making Jones prove it one more time. And if neither player signs an extension before the tag window closes? It’s hard to believe an insane bidding war would develop for Jones, but given the position he plays – and Barkley’s injury history – the Giants might be compelled to tag their quarterback and hope Barkley re-ups.

New York Jets

None: Bigger fish to fry or a team seeking a veteran quarterback to lead an otherwise playoff-caliber roster to the promised land. The NYJ will need cap space not only for their next QB1 but also if GM Joe Douglas is going to get an extension done for All-Pro DT Quinnen Williams.

Philadelphia Eagles

DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: The NFC champs have a laundry list of free agents, including CB James Bradberry, DT Fletcher Cox, LB T.J. Edwards, DE Brandon Graham, DT Javon Hargrave, C Jason Kelce, RB Miles Sanders and G Isaac Seumalo. But several are well past 30 and most play positions at the high end of the tag’s salary scale. Gardner-Johnson, whom the Eagles list as a safety, wouldn’t cost as much though it’s worth noting (and he might) that he plays slot corner regularly. Only 25, he tied for the league lead with six INTs in 2022 despite missing five games and knows how to get under the skin of opponents.

Pittsburgh Steelers

None: No one worthy … and no money available anyway.

San Francisco 49ers

K Robbie Gould: Sure, it’s optimal to keep RT Mike McGlinchey, but no reason to mess around with losing one of the more consistent kickers in league history given the reasonable  cost.

Seattle Seahawks

QB Geno Smith: Be nice to get the league’s 2022 Comeback Player of the Year and first-time Pro Bowler locked in sooner rather than later. But the tag would at least create extra time to get an extension done if Smith and Seattle can’t reach common ground by March 7. And if the Seahawks, who hold the fifth pick of the draft, fall in love with a younger passer? Tags can always be rescinded, too.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

None: No one worthy … and no money available anyway – absolutely none, actually, the Bucs a league-worst $55 million in the cap hole.

Tennessee Titans

None: No one worthy … and no money available anyway.

Washington Commanders

DT Daron Payne: It would be a blow for a third-ranked defense to let go of a young interior pass rusher (Payne is 25) who registered a career-best and team-leading 11½ sacks in 2022.


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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