Rules Regarding The Franchise Tag Per The Collective Bargaining Agreement

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 5: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) and NFLPA Executive Director Demaurice Smith hold up the NFL's new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement at the Pro Football Hall of Fame August 5, 2011 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

On Monday February 20 teams will be allowed to slap the unwelcome franchise tag on players with the idea that it allows team to keep their best players from entering free agency. The deadline for teams to use their franchise tag will be March 5, roughly eight days before free agency kicks off on March 13. That being said here's the rules in regards to the Franchise Tag per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (we highlighted some of the key points).

Before we get to that, let's go through some quick points.

  • If the team uses the Exclusive Franchise Tender, then that player is not allowed to negotiate with any team. The one-year contract is the average of the five largest salaries as that player's respective position as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period that league year.
  • If the team uses the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tender, then that player is allowed to negotiate with any team, however if that player leaves for the new team, then that player's old team receives two first round draft picks as compensation. The one-year contract is the average of the top contracts at that player's position over the five preceding league years -- or 120 percent increase over that player's contract the year prior (whichever is greater).
  • Teams can withdraw the Franchise Tender at anytime before the player signs, allowing that player to become an unrestricted free agent.
  • The deadline for franchise players to sign a long-term deal is July 15 (or the first Monday if the 15th falls on a weekend).

Onto the CBA language.

Section 1. Franchise Player Designations:

Except as set forth in Section 9 below, each Club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent as a Franchise Player each season during the term of this Agreement. The player so designated may be one who would otherwise be a Restricted Free Agent. Except as set forth in Section 2(a)(i) below, any Club that designates a Franchise Player shall be the only Club with which such Franchise Player may negotiate or sign a Player Contract during the period the player is so designated, notwithstanding the number of his Accrued Seasons. The period for Clubs to designate Franchise Players will begin on the twenty-second day preceding the first day of the new League Year and will end at 4:00pm New York time on the eighth day preceding the first day of the new League Year.

Section 2. Required Tender for Franchise Players:

(a) Except as provided in Subsection (b) below, any Club that designates a Franchise Player shall on the date the designation is made notify the player and the NFLPA which one of the following two potential required tenders the Club has selected:

(i) Nonexclusive Franchise Tender. The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below) at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which average shall be calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years (using the average of the amounts of the 2009 and 2011 Salary Caps as the Salary Cap amount for the 2010 League Year); and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year (e.g., when calculating the Tender for the 2012 League Year, dividing the aggregate sum of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the 2007–2011 League Years by the aggregate sum of the Salary Caps for the 2007–2011 League Years and multiplying the result by the amount of the Salary Cap for the 2012 League Year) (the "Cap Percentage Average") (See Appendix E for an illustrative example); or (B) 120% of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater; if the Club extends the Tender pursuant to this Subsection (a)(i), the player shall be permitted to negotiate a Player Contract with any Club as if he were a player subject to Section 5 below, except that Draft Choice Compensation of two first round draft selections shall be made with respect to such player in the event he signs with the New Club, and the Signing Period for such player shall be determined under Section 14 below. For purposes of this Subsection, the "Franchise Tag" is the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries (e.g., the Franchise Tag for the 2010 League Year equals the average of the five largest Salaries for the 2009 League Year for players at that position); or

(ii) Exclusive Franchise Tender. The Exclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Salaries in Player Contracts for that League Year as of the end of the Restricted Free Agent Signing Period that League Year, as set forth in Article 9, Section 2(e), for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below) at which he participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, or (B) the amount of the Required Tender under Subsection (a)(i) above, whichever is greater.

(b) Any Club that designates a player as a Franchise Player for the third time shall, on the date the third such designation is made, be deemed to have tendered the player a one-year NFL Player Contract for the greater of: (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below) with the highest such average; (B) 120% of the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below) at which the player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year; or (C) 144% of his Prior Year Salary. (By way of example, a kicker designated as a Franchise Player for the third time in the 2014 League Year would have a Required Tender equal to the greater of: (i) the average of the five largest 2013 Salaries for quarterbacks; (ii) 120% of the average of the five largest 2013 Salaries for kickers; or (iii) 144% of the player’s own 2013 Salary.) If the Club designates the player as a Franchise Player for the third time, the designating Club shall be the only Club with which the player may negotiate or sign a Player Contract. In lieu of designating such a player as a Franchise Player for the third time, any Club may designate such player as a Transition Player pursuant to Section 3 below.

(c) If a player subject to a Franchise Player designation accepts the Required Tender, the resulting Player Contract shall be fully guaranteed if the player’s contract is terminated because of lack of comparative skill; as a result of an injury sustained in the performance of his services under his Player Contract; and/or due to a Club’s determination to create Room for Salary Cap purposes. For purposes of this Subsection only, any contract termination due to the failure of the player to establish or maintain his excellent physical condition will be subject to review of a neutral physician appointed by the parties, whose physical findings will be conclusive in any arbitration proceeding relating to the physical condition of the player at the time of the exam, provided that such exam takes place within twenty (20) days of the contract termination.

(d) Any of the Required Tenders set forth in this Section 2 may be withdrawn at any time, but if such Tender is withdrawn, the player immediately becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent and thereafter is completely free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with any such player, without any penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to, Draft Choice Compensation between Clubs or First Refusal Rights of any kind, or any signing period.

(e) For the purposes of this Article, "Salary" means the total of the Paragraph 5 Salary (reduced proportionately if the contract is entered into after the first regular season game), roster and reporting bonuses, pro-rata portion of signing bonus, and other payments to players in compensation for the playing of professional football for the applicable year of the player’s most recently negotiated Player Contract, except for performance bonuses other than roster and reporting bonuses. Salary shall also include any unrepaid loans made, guaranteed or collateralized by a Team or its Team Affiliate to a player or Player Affiliate. "Prior Year Salary" means the Salary (as defined in this Subsection) for the last League Year of the player’s most recently negotiated Player Contract.

(f) The calculation of any five largest Prior Year Salaries shall include any Player Contract resulting from acceptance of a Tender for the Prior Year pursuant to Section 2(a)(i) or (a)(ii) above, provided that the player played during the Prior League Year pursuant to the Tender, but shall not include the amount of any term of a Player Contract renegotiated after the Monday of the tenth week of the regular season of the Prior League Year that provides for an unearned incentive to be treated as signing bonus.

(g) The calculation of any five largest Salaries for the current League Year as of the end of the Restricted Free Agent signing period pursuant to Section 2(a)(ii) above shall include any Player Contract resulting from acceptance of any Tender for the Prior League Year pursuant to Section 2(a)(i) or (a)(ii) above, provided that the player played during the Prior League Year pursuant to the Tender, but shall not include (i) any Player Contract amount resulting from a renegotiation of an existing Player Contract between the time of the designation and any applicable later date or (ii) the amount of any term of a Player Contract renegotiated after the Monday of the tenth week of the regular season of the Prior League Year that provides for an unearned incentive to be treated as signing bonus.

(h) If a Franchise Player receives a Nonexclusive Franchise Player Tender pursuant to Section 2(a)(i) above, any provision in an Offer Sheet to such player waiving or limiting the New Club’s ability to designate the player as a Franchise Player or Transition Player in the future shall not be a Principal Term, and therefore need not be included in a contract formed with the Prior Club as a result of matching such an Offer Sheet (but shall be included in a contract formed with the New Club as a result of the Prior Club not matching such an Offer Sheet). This Subsection (h) shall not apply to a player who was designated as a Transition Player in lieu of designated as a Franchise Player, pursuant to Section 3(a) below, or to any other Transition Player.

(i) The definition of a "signing bonus" for this Article is the same as that in Article 13. The pro rata portion of such signing bonuses includes prorated amounts from prior Player Contracts; the Salary Cap acceleration rules for unamortized signing bonus amounts do not apply to the calculation of the Franchise and Transition Tenders.

(j) For purposes of calculating the minimum Tenders to Franchise and Transition players under this Article, if the present value of any deferred Paragraph 5 amount (as defined in Article 12, Section 6(a)(ii)) is at least $100,000 less than the initial Paragraph 5 amount (before being present valued), then the present value amount shall be used.

(k) Any Club designating a Franchise Player shall have until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on July 15 of the League Year (or, if July 15 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the first Monday thereafter) for which the designation takes effect to sign the player to a multiyear contract or extension. After that date, the player may sign only a one-year Player Contract with his Prior Club for that season, and such Player Contract may not be extended until after the Club’s last regular season game of that League Year.

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