There isn’t much downtime on the NFL calendar. The Super Bowl just exited the rearview and free agency is but a few weeks away, leaving some time to lock up players before they hit the open market.
Teams have a weapon designed to prevent a player from doing so. It’s called the franchise tag, a collectively bargained instrument that helps keep important players in the mix albeit at an expensive rate.
Teams can apply the franchise tag starting Wednesday. Don’t expect the Raiders to use it, or the less forceful transition tag.
The Raiders don’t have worthy candidates among their free agent class. Running back Latavius Murray is the biggest name in that group, but he seems destined to reach the open market.
Virtually securing Murray with the franchise tag – we’ll get into tag descriptions later – should cost $12.7 million for a running back, according to ESPN projections.
The Raiders won’t put themselves in a spot where they’d have to pay that freight. Even the rarely used transition tag would be too rich for their blood.
Most important members of last year’s 12-4 run remain under contract, with but a few key components set for unrestricted free agency. Murray, linebackers Perry Riley and Malcolm Smith and right tackle Menelik Watson are the starters headed for the open market.
Here’s a refresher on tags available to the Raiders and other NFL teams.
Exclusive franchise tag: A player who receives this tag is set to return to his club, and can’t receive an offer sheet from another team. He will get paid an average of the five largest salaries at his position in 2017 or 20 percent more than his 2016 salary, depending on which number is higher.
Non-exclusive franchise tag: This tag is more common than the last. Tagged players can receive offer sheets from other teams, but the courting team must give up two first-round picks for his rights. That’s typically too high a price too pay for a tagged player.
A non-exclusive franchise tag will pay a player the average of the top five salaries at his position from the 2016 season or a 20 percent raise over his 2016 salary, depending on which number is higher.
Transition tag: This tag only allows a team to match an offer sheet a player receives. There’s no compensation if that player is allowed to leave. The player will get paid the average of the top 10 salaries at his position.
Teams can apply tags and rescind them. Also, parties are free to work out a long-term deal instead of paying the 2017 salary required under the tag. Only one tag can be used per season. Tags can be applied until March 1. The Raiders last used a tag in 2012, when the applied the franchise tag to safety Tyvon Branch.