The 2021 NFL offseason won't officially begin until March 17, but Tuesday marked the deadline for NFL teams to place franchise tags on players. 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. One player who won't be getting tagged is Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who came to terms on a long-term deal less than two weeks before the start of free agency.
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora anticipated 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
The Saints had a couple of candidates for the franchise tag, but opted to use it on Williams. The free safety is coming off of an impressive 2020 campaign, in which he recorded 59 combined tackles, seven passes defensed and three interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams registered a 78.6 PFF Grade in 2020, which ranked sixth among safeties. In 60 career regular-season games with the Saints, Williams has recorded 13 interceptions and has been a consistent presence in the secondary. Williams is projected to make $11.196 million in 2021.
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.
The Panthers have franchise tagged Moton (CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones confirms), 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.
New York Jets: Marcus Maye (FS)
As expected, the Jets have franchise tagged Marcus Maye, keeping the veteran safety in New York for at least one more year. The 39th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Maye started in each of his first 54 games with the Jets. May has six career interceptions to go with 22 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, 266 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
The Giants have placed the tag on Williams for a second consecutive season, giving more time for both sides to work out a long-term deal. Williams was one of the best interior defenders in the NFL -- finishing with a career-high 30 quarterback hits and 11.5 sacks in his first season under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Williams' 42 pressures and 12 hurries were third amongst all defensive tackles (behind only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones) and his 30 quarterback hits led all players at his position.
Washington Football Team: Brandon Scherff (OG)
Washington announced the team will tag Scherff for the second consecutive year. Scherff, who made just over $15 million while playing under the tag in 2020, would make just over $18 million under the tag for the 2021 season.
A four-time Pro Bowler, Scherff was named an All-Pro for the first time in 2020 despite missing three games with a knee injury. In doing so, Scherff became the first Washington player to be named First-Team All-Pro since punter Matt Turk in 1996. He allowed just three sacks in 857 snaps last season.
Tampa Bay has informed Godwin he'll be tagged. Godwin is estimated to make $16.43 million in 2021, not bad for a receiver that caught 65 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns last season -- a vital part of the Buccaneers Super Bowl championship. Godwin finished with 16 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown in four postseason games.
Announced by the team Tuesday, this one's a bit of a surprise despite Robinson starting all 16 games and playing 974 snaps at left tackle in 2020. Set to make $14.507 million under the tag in 2021, the former second-round draft pick often graded poorly as a pass protector during his contract year. Now he'll be tasked with protecting presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence.
Chicago Bears: Allen Robinson (WR)
Had Robinson hit the open market, he might've drawn serious interest from more than a dozen teams. Chicago was never expected to let him test free agency, though, after failing for months to strike a long-term agreement with its No. 1 pass catcher. Now tagged, the ex-Jaguars standout is due $18 million in 2021. He has until July 15 to be extended in Windy City.