NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 NFL offseason won't officially begin until March 17, but starting this week, all 32 teams are allowed to begin using franchise tags in anticipation of free agency. From Feb. 23-March 9, each club can designate one player with a franchise or transition tag, essentially securing their rights for the upcoming season -- and setting the stage for a potential long-term agreement or trade.

CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora anticipates that a record number of players could be tagged in 2021 as teams navigate a pandemic-affected salary cap, especially as "more progressive" front offices potentially use the tag to orchestrate other moves.

Below, you'll find a brief refresher on the tags and what they do, as well as a running tracker of every player tagged this offseason:

How do the tags work?

  • Franchise tags are essentially one-year contract offers that come in two forms: exclusive and non-exclusive.
  • Exclusive tags restrict negotiating rights to the tagging team and pay out an average of the top five salaries at the player's position in the current year, or 120% of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater.
  • Non-exclusive tags, which are more common, pay out an average of the top five tag amounts at the player's position from the previous five years (applied to the current cap), or 120% of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. Players who receive this tag can negotiate with other teams, but the tagging team has the right to match any offer -- and would also receive two first-round draft picks in the event the player signs elsewhere.
  • Transition tags are also one-year contract offers. They pay out an average of the top 10 salaries at the player's position. Players who receive this tag can negotiate with other teams, but the tagging team has the right to match any offer. If the tagging team declines to match, it would not receive any compensation in return.

2021 tag tracker

Denver Broncos: Justin Simmons (S)

The Broncos will tag Simmons for the second consecutive season as the front office will look to reach a long-term deal with the pro Bowl safety. Simmons had 96 tackles, five interceptions, and nine passes defensed for Denver last season -- playing every defensive snap for the Broncos for three consecutive seasons. Simmons is projected to make $11.196 million under the tag in 2021. 

Carolina Panthers: Taylor Moton (T)

The Panthers are reportedly expected to franchise tag Moton, as both sides are looking for a long-term deal in the coming days. Moton has missed just six snaps over the past three seasons, playing every offensive snap in 2018 and 2020. Moton allowed just three sacks on 1,057 snaps in 2020, per Pro Football Focus -- committing just one penalty on the season. Moton is projected to make north of $14 million under the franchise tag.