Today marks the beginning of a 14-day window in which teams can designate one of several Franchise Tag options for a single player in 2016. Across the league this is driving rumors, not just about any one player, but about how almost every team in the league will be approaching the offseason as a whole. The Kansas City Chiefs are no different.
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In fact, Kansas City has been one of the organizations most likely to use the Franchise Tag option. Since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was reached in 2011, the Chiefs have used the Tag in four of five offseasons. The players tagged include Tamba Hali in 2011, Dwayne Bowe in 2012, Branden Albert in 2013, and Justin Houston in 2015.
For three of those players, the Franchise Tag served as a precursor to a long-term contract. And with a collection of quality players in line for Free Agency right now, it makes a lot of sense that a number of rumors would be circling about the potential for the team to use it once again.
When talking about the Franchise Tag, there are actually three different designations that need to be considered: Exclusive, Non-Exclusive, and Transition. Each serves a different purpose and has its own set of rules.
- Exclusive – The Exclusive designation means that a team is preventing a player from even contacting other teams. Because the player has no rights to negotiate outside of his current team, this is also the most expensive option. A player on the Exclusive tag gets paid either an average of the top five contracts for his position league wide, or he will be paid 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever option is higher.
- Non-Exclusive – For general purposes, when you see/hear a pundit talking about the Franchise Tag, they are most likely referring to the Non-Exclusive option which is the most commonly used. The Non-Exclusive designation pays the player the average of the top five salaries for the past five seasons at that position. It also allows a player to negotiate a contract with another team, meaning they are not 100% locked onto their current roster. However, if a deal is reached with another team, the player’s current organization has the right to either match the deal or receive a pair of 1st round draft picks from that second team.
- Transition – The cheapest option is also the one with the most risk. A player on the Transition Tag will receive a payout equal to the average of the top ten salaries at their position. Like with the Non-Exclusive Tag, the player is free to negotiate with other teams. However, if the player’s current team declines to match another team’s contract offer, there is no draft pick compensation. The higher risk, with only a minor financial difference, makes the Transition Tag the least appealing option to an organization.
One thing that gets lost in the talk of teams using the Franchise Tag is the fact that it is generally used more as a negotiation piece, rather than as an attempt to keep a player for just that season. Teams using the tag are both buying more time to negotiate, are placing the risk on the part of the player, but are also demonstrating their willingness to that player to pay him a substantial amount of money. That is why most Franchise Tag tenders will eventually result in a new contract for that player.
Chiefs fans might remember that Justin Houston was given the Non-Exclusive tender in 2015 as the team negotiated a new contract for him. This led to a concern from some folks that a team with a lot of money, notably the Raiders, might come in and offer Houston a new contract. It was mentioned a few times during the course of the offseason that Houston did have a couple of potential suitors. Of course, nothing materialized and the Chiefs were able to get the super star pass rusher signed to a long-term deal before the season began.
So who might be in line for that option in the 2016 offseason?
Next: Looking at contracts