Tuesday is a significant marker in the road to NFL free agency. Beginning at 1 p.m. PT, NFL teams are allowed to designate a player either a "franchise" player or "transition" player. These players usually can still negotiate in free agency, but it puts a hinderance, and with one of the tags, a prohibition on it.
The franchise tag comes with exclusive and non-exclusive options. The exclusive option means a player can only negotiate with his current team, while the non-exclusive allows him to negotiate with other teams. The exclusive option offers a higher one-year salary if the player and team cannot agree to terms and he signs the tender. The non-exclusive option allows the player to negotiate elsewhere, and if his current team will not match the terms of an offer, that new team must give up two first round picks.
The transition tag simply gives the team a right of first refusal if the player receives a contract offer elsewhere. There is no draft pick compensation if the player departs.
What are the franchise tender amounts expected to be?
I say "expected to be" because the numbers are not finalized until the salary cap is announced on or prior to March 9, 2016, the start of the new league year. With that in mind, ESPN has estimated the non-exclusive projections as follows:
Those numbers are based on the average of the five largest prior year salaries for players at those positions. This is for a first time franchise player. A second time franchise player gets a 20 percent raise over the previous tag.
The exclusive franchise tender is the average of the five largest salaries for the current league year, as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period. If the non-exclusive tender is larger, that will be the number.
The transition tender is based on the average of the ten largest prior year salaries for players at the position at which the transition player participated the most players during the prior league year; OR 120% of his prior year salary, whichever is greater.
Who could the 49ers franchise?
The tag would apply to unrestricted free agents. The 49ers unrestricted free agents are as follows:
WR Anquan Boldin
OG Alex Boone
RB Reggie Bush
TE Garrett Celek
K Phil Dawson
DT Ian Williams
Will the 49ers franchise anybody?
No. Ian Williams is a decent candidate given his solid season, but the 49ers are not prepared to pay him a one-year salary of $13.4 million. I would hope they find a way to re-sign him, but he will not be back through the use of the franchise tag.
Why won't the 49ers use the franchise tag on Alex Boone?
They are not allowed to based on the terms of his contract. When Boone held out in 2014, the eventual deal that got him back included two things. The 49ers turned roster bonuses and some other money into 2014 guaranteed money. They also included a clause saying they would not attempt to designate him a franchise or transition player when his contract expired. Players and teams have the right to negotiate away the franchise and transition tag options.
How about kicker Phil Dawson?
It might normally make sense, but Dawson has already been franchised twice. The CBA has a rule stating that if a player has been twice designated a franchise player, a third such designation requires he get the franchise tender for quarterbacks, no matter his position. The 49ers are not tagging Dawson to the tune of $19.8 million.
Who are some candidates to get the tag around the NFL?
Bears: WR Alshon Jeffery
Broncos: OLB Von Miller
Chiefs: S Eric Berry
Dolphins: DE Olivier Vernon
Eagles: QB Sam Bradford (viewed as unlikely by some reports)
Jets: DE Muhammad Wilkerson
Panthers: CB Josh Norman
Ravens: K Justin Tucker
Texans: P Shane Lechler
Washington: QB Kirk Cousins
Who have the 49ers previously franchised?
2012: S Dashon Goldson
2010: DT Aubrayo Franklin
2004, 2005: OLB Julian Peterson