What is the NFL Franchise Tag and what does it mean?

Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers / Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY

The Green Bay Packers rarely use the franchise tag, but it's a tool every team has available before free agency.

Teams have additional flexibility to retain star players before their contracts expire. The franchise tag, introduced in 1993, has a significant impact on free agency every offseason.

But what exactly is the franchise tag, and how does it work? And will the Packers consider using it this offseason? Let's break it down.

What is the NFL Franchise Tag?

The NFL franchise tag gives teams additional security during free agency, preventing them from losing a star player with an expiring contract.

By applying the franchise tag, a team effectively hands one of its free agents a one-year, fully guaranteed deal. The player will no longer become a free agent and can't negotiate with other teams. Each team can use the tag once per offseason.

However, the franchise tag is often used to give the team and player additional time to work on a new contract. Players on the franchise tag can sign a contract extension until mid-July. After this deadline, they can only play that season on the tag.

The franchise tag is sometimes necessary, but it's not ideal for either side. The team has to commit to a one-year, fully guaranteed contract, with the entire salary hitting the current year's cap. The player doesn't get the long-term security of a multi-year deal. That's why an extension is often signed during the summer.

Will the Packers use the NFL Franchise Tag in 2024?

Anything is possible in the NFL, but the answer is a resounding no. None of the Packers' unrestricted free agents are must-haves. The question isn't whether the team will use the franchise tag, but instead, will they actually re-sign any of their free agents?

The Packers may hope to bring back running back AJ Dillon, All-Pro returner Keisean Nixon, or starting guard Jon Runyan, but the franchise tag shouldn't become a factor.

The financial impact is too significant. For example, the Packers may re-sign Nixon for his return ability. But he is a cornerback, so using the franchise tag would cost Green Bay a projected $18.4 million. It's not going to happen.

When must the Packers decide to use the NFL Franchise Tag in 2024?

Every NFL team has a two-week period from February 20-March 5 to use the franchise tag. The tag can't be applied before or after this date.

If the Packers use the franchise tag but want to sign the player to a long-term extension, they would have until mid-July (usually July 15) to work out terms.

Have the Packers ever used the NFL Franchise Tag?

Part of the reason we can be confident the Packers won't use the franchise tag this offseason is that they rarely do. Since the franchise tag was introduced in 1993, Green Bay has only used it five times.

  • 1998: RB Dorsey Levens
  • 1999: WR Antonio Freeman
  • 2008: DL Corey Williams
  • 2010: DL Ryan Pickett
  • 2022: WR Davante Adams

The Packers required the tag in consecutive offseasons in 1998-99 to retain running back Dorsey Levens and wide receiver Antonio Freeman. Both players signed multi-year contract extensions later that summer to avoid playing the season on the tag. The same was true after Green Bay franchise-tagged defensive tackle Ryan Pickett in 2010.

However, the tag doesn't guarantee a player will return. The Packers have traded players on the franchise tag twice: defensive lineman Corey Williams and wide receiver Davante Adams.

When did the Packers last use the NFL Franchise Tag?

The Packers last used the franchise tag in 2022 to retain star receiver Davante Adams. It was viewed as a smart decision, as the team aimed to run it back with Aaron Rodgers for another year, keeping their Super Bowl window open.

However, despite working out a new deal with Rodgers, the Packers pulled off the shock of the offseason by trading Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. Green Bay landed first- and second-round draft picks, while the Raiders handed Adams a multi-year deal.

2024 franchise tag projections

How much does it cost to franchise-tag a player? It varies from year to year and depends on the position.

According to Over The Cap: "Franchise and transition tenders are calculated by adding the respective tag numbers, divided by the sum of the salary caps, from the previous five seasons, and finally multipled by the current season's salary cap."

Based on their 2024 projections, here is how much it would cost the Packers to apply the franchise tag to each of their unrestricted free agents:

Packers 2024 franchise tag projections

  • TE Tyler Davis: $12.38 million
  • TE Josiah Deguara: $12.38 million
  • RB AJ Dillon: $12.42 million
  • S Rudy Ford: $17.22 million
  • T Yosh Nijman: $21.72 million
  • CB Keisean Nixon: $18.42 million
  • S Jonathan Owens: $17.22 million
  • G Jon Runyan Jr.: $21.72 million
  • S Darnell Savage: $17.22 million
  • LB Eric Wilson: $21.92 million

Those numbers would be fully guaranteed for one season, which explains why the Packers won't use the franchise tag in 2024.

More Packers news and analysis