A quick and easy guide to 2016 NFL franchise tags and who's getting one

It's the biggest question to start the NFL offseason: Who's getting tagged in 2016? And will it be exclusive? Non-exclusive? A transition tag?

Confused yet?

That's why we're here to help. Here's everything you need to know about the NFL's franchise tag system with Tuesday being the first day for teams to designate franchise or transition players. We'll also take a look around the NFL to pinpoint the notable names who are likely to get tagged, starting with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. 

Here's your 2016 franchise tag primer:

What is the franchise tag? In theory the franchise tag is a method for NFL teams to prevent very important players in their franchise from leaving via free agency. In practice it’s a method for negotiating contracts by preventing certain players from actually hitting the market. Which is kind of the same thing.

Someone said “exclusive” so what are they talking about? Technically there are THREE types of franchise tags. The exclusive tag (you’re on lock down), the non-exclusive tag (another team can sign the player to an offer sheet and then give up two first-round picks if the player agrees and his original team doesn’t match) and the transition tag (same as non-exclusive but with no draft picks). 

How long is it? A franchise tag lasts one year, although players can be tagged up to three straight years. The first number is set by position (see: below), the second is 120 percent of the previous tag and the third time you get “quarterback money.” Three’s the limit per the new CBA, however.  

How does the money work? Once the tender is signed, the player in question gets a one-year, fully-guaranteed contract at a set price. Said price is determined by finding the average of the five largest salaries at that player’s position front the year before. (To figure out the quarterback franchise value, you average the top five quarterback salaries.) 

Can they sign this guy to a contract? Yes! However, the team and the player only have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal, otherwise negotiations are legally off the table until the following offseason. 

What’s that price? Great news! We already know. Kind of anyway. Earlier this year CBSSports.com's Joel Corry broke down the numbers, looking at what kind of money position players can expect.

This is based off of a $154 million salary-cap number. Rumors circulated Monday about the possibility of a $155 million cap -- it's hard to imagine it going up more than that, but as noted by the NFLPA's George Atallah, it's all based on revenue. No one can guarantee the number you'll see until the number is actually ready. 

Here’s what you can expect though: 

Projected franchise tag numbers, 2016
Position Current Salary cap percentage Projected Change
Cornerback $13,075,000 8.985% $13,838,000 5.83%
Defensive End $14,813,000 10.061% $15,494,000 4.6%
Defensive Tackle $11,193,000 8.68% $13,368,000 19.43%
Linebacker $13,195,000 9.176% $14,131,000 7.09%
Offensive Line $12,943,000 8.882% $13,678,000 5.68%
Punter/Kicker $4,126,000 2.944% $4,534,000 9.89%
Quarterback $18,544,000 12.823% $19,748,000 6.49%
Running Back $10,951,000 7.708% $11,871,000 8.4%
Safety $9,618,000 6.959% $10,717,000 11.43%
Tight End $8,347,000 5.879% $9,053,000 8.46%
Wide Receiver $12,823,000 9.434% $14,527,000 13.29%

What are some of the limitations? Positions are a really big problem for the tag, in my opinion. It makes sense for quarterbacks to be a highly-valued commodity when it comes to franchise tagging. Quarterbacks are really about the whole spirit of the thing: you want the option to make sure your franchise’s most important player can’t leave in free agency or can’t decide to just ride out his current contract and head to free agency. Someone with a year left on their deal is more likely to renegotiate knowing they can be held onto for a couple of years.

But look at the rest of the positions. “Offensive line” is slapped together? That’s absurd. The value of a left tackle is totally different from a right tackle and totally different from guards and totally different from a center. 

“Defensive end” isn’t fair because 3-4 DEs and 4-3 DEs are plugged together. Linebacker is one tag! Von Miller ’s franchise tag is less because he’s technically a linebacker even though he should be getting whatever any defensive end gets. There needs to be a “pass rusher” or “edge rusher” category to make things more appropriate. In no world should Miller make less money under the same system as a 3-4 defensive end. 

Also dumb: you can tag a kicker. In what world is a kicker the “franchise player”? 

Who might get tagged this year? Let’s split them into categories.

Lock it up

Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos : The only way Miller isn’t tagged is if the Broncos sign him to a long-term deal (so they can tag someone like Malik Jackson instead). He’s not leaving Denver.

Josh Norman , CB, Carolina Panthers : GM Dave Gettleman’s playing it coy with tagging Norman, but come on. 28-year-old cornerback from the area who is perfect for the system? He’s not leaving when the Panthers have salary-cap space. 

Very Likely

Cordy Glenn , OL, Buffalo Bills : One would assume the Bills won’t let a franchise left tackle waltz out the door when the tag is available for use. 

Eric Berry , S, Kansas City Chiefs : Berry’s story from 2015 is incredible and the safety position offers some nice financial freedom (just $10 million for the tag). 

Alshon Jeffery , WR, Chicago Bears : Letting Jeffery walk would be really weird given his age and talent but it doesn’t feel like the Bears are going to aggressively use the tag this year for some reason? They should. He’s a stud.

Kirk Cousins , QB, Washington Redskins : Crazy idea given the number for quarterbacks. But if Washington wants to pay Cousins to stick around for a while it’s going to require at least $25 million guaranteed anyway. 

Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens : He’s a very good kicker at least! 

Muhammad Wilkerson , DL, New York Jets : Wilkerson’s one of several stud defensive linemen on the Jets roster. If he hits free agency, he’ll make a pretty penny, but New York might still be figuring out who they want among the group. Adding Leonard Williams through the draft gives them a little more freedom in this regard. 

Von Miller is likely getting tagged. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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