Franchise, transition tag window opens Monday

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It’s President’s Day for the USA. For the NFL, it’s the first day that guys can receive offers to be paid a hell of a lot more than any USA president ever made.

On Monday, the two-week window opens for application of the franchise and transition tags. Like everyone else, I used to call it the period for using the franchise tag only. But with four franchise tags and two transition tags applied in 2014, the little-used transition tag has experienced a bit of a comeback.

A year ago, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Washington defensive end Brian Orakpo, and Jets kicker Nick Folk received the franchise tag. Graham signed a long-term deal after losing a grievance contending that he was actually a receiver for tag purposes, Hardy played one game and landed on the Commissioner-Exempt list after the release of the Ray Rice in-elevator video, Orakpo tore a pectoral muscle after generating 0.5 sacks in seven games, and Folk signed a multi-year contract with the Jets.

The Browns applied the transition tag to center Alex Mack, who signed an offer sheet with Jacksonville that the Browns quickly matched. The Steelers applied the transition tag to Jason Worilds, who signed the transition tender and was paid $11 million and change for 2014.

The tenders once were determined exclusively by cap numbers of the highest-paid players at a given position. The franchise tag came from the average of the five highest-paid players at the same position; the transition tag came from the average of the 10 highest-paid players.

The 2011 labor deal changed thank, tying the tags to the average percentage of the total salary cap that the average of the highest cap numbers at a given position consumed on a five-year basis. As the cap increases, the tags will increase. But the tags won’t increase at a rate disproportionate to cap growth.

Because of this new twist, the tag values aren’t known until the salary cap is determined for a given year. For 2015, that hasn’t happened yet.

The rule remains that a player with a high cap number in the prior year will instead receive a 20-percent raise, if the increased salary exceeds the franchise-tag number for his position. In the second year of being tagged, another 20-percent raise applies. If the player is tagged a third time, he gets a whopping 44-percent increase or the quarterback franchise tender, whichever is higher.

Which, as a practical matter, means that no player ever will be tagged three times.

We’ll find one the next 14 days who gets tagged the first time. Here’s PFT’s team-by-team look at the candidates.