NFL franchise tag 2019: Explainer, candidates tracker

RADIO.COM

The two-week window for NFL teams to place the franchise tag on a pending free agent ended Tuesday afternoon, and six players were hit with the tag.

They are: Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford, Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark and San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould.

Among the notables who avoided the tag: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, New York Giants safety Landon Collins and a trio of players from the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (offensive tackle Trent Brown, defensive end Trey Flowers and kicker Stephen Gostkowski). 

The franchise tag allows a team to retain its free agent on a high one-year salary, which star players typically dread in comparison to the security of a long-term contract.

A player hit with the "exclusive-rights" franchise tag cannot seek offer sheets from other teams; a player with the "non-exclusive" franchise tag can sign an offer sheet with another team, and the original team can either match the offer or receive draft-pick compensation. There's also the rarely used "transition tag," which is less expensive because there is no compensation attached.

Players who have been given the franchise tag have until July 15 to agree to a multi-year contract extension. 

The value of the franchise tag varies by position. It is based on the salaries of the top players at the position. In 2019, the franchise tag will be worth an estimated $17.1 million for a defensive end, $15.4 million for a linebacker, $15.2 million for a defensive tackle and roughly $5 million for a special-teamer (it would have been worth nearly $25 million for a quarterback), according to OverTheCap.com.

Here is a look back at the franchise tag drama, as it unfolded:

March 5: The Giants informed Collins that they would not place the franchise tag on him, making the 25-year-old three-time Pro Bowl safety a free agent. The projected salary for a safety under the franchise tag in 2019 is about $12 million.

"I want to thank the Giants organization for believing in me and allowing me to have 4 great years in NY," Collins wrote on Twitter. "I can’t express how great it was to play with my teammates and in one of the greatest cities in the world. I will forever cherish my time in the blue and white and the relationships I have built in the building and in my community. Now on to the next chapter."

March 5: The Patriots were not expected to use the franchise tag on either Flowers or Gostkowski before the deadline. The Patriots appear willing to bring both back once free agency starts next week. Flowers seems primed to get a fat contract as arguably the best defensive end on the market.

March 5: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers avoided having to use the franchise designation on left tackle Donovan Smith by agreeing to a three-year deal worth $41.25 million with $27 million fully guaranteed.

March 4: The Falcons reportedly placed the franchise tag on Jarrett, amid chatter that Jarrett is seeking "Aaron Donald money" on a long-term extension. 

March 4: The Seahawks placed the franchise tag on Clark, according to multiple reports.

March 4: The Cowboys will apply the franchise tag to Lawrence, Dallas' 105.3 The Fan confirmed.

March 4: The Texans placed the non-exclusive franchise designation on Clowney. A non-exclusive franchise designation means that Clowney may negotiate with other NFL teams, and if Clowney signs an offer sheet from another team, the Texans have a right to match. The NFL must determine whether Clowney counts as a linebacker or defensive end for purposes of calculating his tag amount.

March 4: The Buccaneers planned to place the franchise tag on Smith, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The report added that talks on a long-term contract extension are going well.

March 2: The Chiefs placed the franchise tag on Ford -- as a linebacker -- and said they will listen to trade offers for the star pass rusher.

March 1: Multiple reports say that if the Giants place the franchise tag on Collins, he would would refrain from signing it until at least after the offseason workout program and spring mini-camps are over, and could even hold out until the start of the regular season.

Feb. 27: The Philadelphia Eagles announced they would not apply the franchise tag to Foles, making the backup quarterback and former Super Bowl MVP a free agent starting on March 13.

Feb. 27: Clowney rejected a long-term contract from the Texans in August, according to SportsRadio 610. Former Texans wide receiver Cecil Shorts III added that he believes Clowney might sit out the entire season rather than play under the franchise tag.

Feb. 26: Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told reporters the team has made their first offer to Lawrence and is confident they can get a long-term deal done.

Feb. 26: The 49ers announced they placed the franchise tag on Gould, preventing a reunion between the kicker and the Chicago Bears, who cut playoff scapegoat Cody Parkey the week prior.

Feb. 20: Conflicting reports about whether Collins truly cleaned out his Giants locker -- and what that signals for the three-time Pro Bowl safety's future with the team. It doesn't look promising.

Feb. 20: Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert announced the team will not put the franchise tag on Bell, who will become an unrestricted free agent. Colbert cited the play of James Conner and Jaylen Samuels last season and the high price tag that would have come with tagging Bell for the third consecutive year. Bell sat out the 2018 season rather than play on the franchise tag.