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NFL franchise tag window opens today; WR Tee Higgins, LB Josh Allen among candidates

The NFL's annual game of tag officially begins.

Today at 4 p.m. ET marks the first day teams can place the franchise or transition tag on players whose contracts are set to expire. The window runs through 4 p.m. ET on March 5.

A deluge of news isn't likely on the outset of the window opening. Clubs generally wait until closer to the end of the window to tag a player officially. With the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next week, teams could utilize the tag later this week in advance of numerous meetings or clubs could use the combine to get a deal done before the tag is needed.

When a tag is placed, sides have until mid-July to work out a multi-year extension. If an extension isn't agreed to by the deadline, the player will play on a one-year tender. As we saw last season with Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs, sides can negotiate a different amount or additional incentives after the deadline, but it must be within a one-year time frame.

There are three tender options:

  1. Non-exclusive franchise tag
  2. Exclusive franchise tag
  3. Transition tag.

Non-exclusive franchise tag: The most commonly used tag. When people refer to the "franchise tag," they are generally talking about the non-exclusive version. This is a one-year tender of the average of the top five salaries at the player's position over the last five years, or 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever is greater. The tagged player can negotiate with other teams, but his current club owns the right to match any offer or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation if he signs with another club.

Exclusive franchise tag: Unlike the non-exclusive version, the tagging team retains the sole right to negotiate with the player. The exclusivity raises the pay scale, with this one-year tender offer being the average of the top five salaries at the player's position for the current year, or 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever is greater. Few receive the exclusive tag. Generally, players for whom other teams would gladly give up two first-round picks receive this version of the tag -- read: quarterbacks.

Transition tag: The transition tag is a one-year tender offer for the average of the top 10 salaries at the position -- as opposed to the top five for the franchise tag. It guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player might receive from another club. The tagging team is awarded no compensation if it chooses not to match a deal.

Each club can use only one tag in a year. The team can rescind the tender before the player signs it, but it counts as being used. A player can be tagged up to three times by his team, with a jump in pay for each occurrence. However, the percentage of the salary cap taken up by the third time generally makes it prohibitive.

The tag figures have yet to be released, as they are based off the NFL's yearly salary cap, which has also not been officially announced for the 2024 season.

Several big-name options could be tagged this season, from Tee Higgins in Cincinnati, Josh Allen in Jacksonville, Brian Burns in Carolina and potentially Barkley again in New York. However it plays out, the game starts today.

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