Welcome to tagging season.
Wednesday marks the first day NFL teams can designate the franchise or transition tag on players. The two-week window for teams to designate tags runs until March 1 at 4 p.m. EST.
NFL Network's Gregg Rosenthal broke down the potential franchise tag options for all 32 NFL teams, but what exactly does using the tag mean?
NFL clubs have three options when it comes to flexing their tag muscle: 1) Non-exclusive franchise tag, 2) Exclusive franchise tag, 3) Transition tag.
Players under the designation have until 4 p.m. EDT on July 15 negotiate a multiyear contract with the team. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2017 season, and the contract cannot be extended until after the club's last regular-season game.
Let's run down the three options:
Non-exclusive franchise tag: This is the most commonly used tag. When most people refer to the "franchise tag" it's generally the non-exclusive version to which they are discussing. It is a one-year tender offer to a player for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position over the last five years, or 120 percent of the player's previous salary, whichever is greater. The player can negotiate with other teams. The player's current team has the right to match any offer, or receive two first-round picks as compensation.
Exclusive franchise tag: A one-year tender offer to a player for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player's position for the current year, or 120 percent of the player's previous salary, whichever is greater. The player's team has all negotiating rights to the player. The bump in pay scale (current average salary versus averaging past five years of data) means only the crème de la crème get this tag (think: Drew Brees or Von Miller).
Transition tag: Think of this as the "you are pretty good, and we might want to keep you, but aren't willing to put a ring on you ourselves" tag. The transition designation is a one-year tender offer to a player for an amount that is the average of the top 10 salaries at the position -- as opposed to top five. It guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player might receive from another team, but no compensation if the team chooses not to match.
Each team can only use one of the above tags in a given year -- meaning they can't designate both a franchise and transition player. A player can be tagged up to three times by his team, with a bump in pay each time.
Teams can rescind the franchise or transition tag -- as we saw with Josh Norman last year -- if the offer sheet hasn't been signed. Once the sheet is signed, the player's salary is guaranteed for that season. A rescinded tag counts as a tag, meaning a team can't designate one player, rescind it and use a new tag on another player in the same year.
The current franchise numbers aren't available until the NFL's salary cap opens, but below is a rundown of the 2016 franchise tag salaries to use as a baseline (assume these numbers will get bumped up). Via the NFLPA:
Quarterback: $19.953 million
Defensive end: $15.701 million
Wide Receiver: $14.599 million
Linebacker: $14.129 million
Cornerback: $13.952 million
Offensive line: $13.706 million
Defensive tackle: $13.615 million
Running back: $11.789 million
Safety: $10.806 million
Tight End: $9.118 million
Kicker/Punter: $4.599 million