What is the NFL franchise tag and when can the Chiefs start using it? (Updated 2024)

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 16: Orlando Brown Jr. #57 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up against the Buffalo Bills at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 16: Orlando Brown Jr. #57 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up against the Buffalo Bills at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs offseason is officially underway, a full month (or more) after that of most other teams, not that anyone is complaining. After all, every other team in the league would love to trade places with the Chiefs as this year’s Super Bowl winning team—again!

However, the late start does mean that the Chiefs have a slightly abbreviated time period within which to get to the work of evaluating the full roster, surveying the college ranks, exploring the free agent market, and scouting opposing teams for potential trade bait or waiver claims.

One of the decisions coming up soon for the Chiefs is whether or not they will utilize the franchise tag once again. Let’s take a look at what the tag is, how things work, and how it affects the Chiefs.

What is the NFL franchise tag?

The franchise tag is a special roster designation that allows a team to retain an unrestricted free agent. If a team “places” the tag on a player, that athlete must remain in the team’s control for another full season even if they should be eligible for free agency.

Most players look forward to hitting the open market for the opportunity for that big payday, so it might seem unfair that NFL teams have yet another way to control a player’s career, but the good news is that the cost is considerable to use the tag.

A player can only be tagged three times.

When is this year's franchise tag deadline?

This year's tag deadline falls just a bit later than normal on Monday, July 17, at 3:00 p.m. C.T.

So what about exclusive or non-exclusive tags?

A franchise tag can be either exclusive or non-exclusive, and it means exactly what it sounds like: that the player can either exclusively deal with the franchise that tagged him or negotiate a deal with any team in the league.

An exclusive tag means that a player can only negotiate with the team that tagged him but the cost is higher, since the salary for that player will be the average of the top five salaries at his position after free agency.

A non-exclusive tag comes in at a lower pre-set price known at the time it’s applied (the average of the top five cap hits at the position for the previous five years), but it does mean that player can try to work out a deal with a new team. The team that applied the tag can then keep the player at the agreed-upon cost or let him go to a new team and receive two first-round picks for their trouble.

What are the franchise tag amounts this year?

The amount required to utilize the franchise tag depends on two things: 1.) The position of the player and, 2.) the year of the tag.

First, here are the assigned (non-exclusive tag) amounts for each position under the tag for 2024 (per Over the Cap):

  • Quarterback – $35.95 million
  • Running Back – $12.41 million
  • Wide Receiver – $21.67 million
  • Tight End – $12.37 million
  • Offensive Linemen – $21.72 million
  • Defensive Tackle – $19.75 million
  • Defensive End – $23.35 million
  • Linebacker – $21.92 million
  • Cornerback – $18.42 million
  • Safety – $17.22 million
  • Special Teams – $5.83 million

Second, the first year of the tag, this year, for example, would receive the assigned amount above, depending on the position. The second year is an automatic 20 percent increase over the previous year (or the new tag amount, depending on which salary is higher). The third season is a 44 percent increase above that.

How will the Chiefs utilize the franchise tag, if at all?

In previous seasons, the Chiefs have used the tag on the likes of defensive tackle Chris Jones and left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., so general manager Brett Veach is clearly not averse to using what leverage he can to keep the talent he wants.

This year, Jones is once again a candidate to be tagged if the Chiefs really needed to use it. The cost would be exorbitant at over $32 million for Jones (20% above his 2023 salary), but paying more for a single season might be worth it if they can't reach an agreement on an expensive extension.

L'Jarius Sneed is the only other likely use of the tag and that's if the Chiefs want to buy themselves more time to work out an extension and they don't want to let the market set a new price for him. That would provide a cap hit for the Chiefs that's still behind 6 other corners, so the Chiefs might feel good about bringing him back on the franchise tag and controlling him for a fifth season.

Either way, the Chiefs have significant decisions to make about high-ticket items and long-term financial flexibility and the franchise tag is a major tool of consideration this offseason, once again.