The NFL’s franchise tag window was originally set to open two days ago but the start date got pushed back given the ongoing talks regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Thus, the window now officially begins today, Thursday, February 27 starting at 4:00 PM Eastern.
Let’s a look at what this development means for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The tagging process
Teams typically use the franchise designation to prevent one of their key impending free agents from leaving in free agency. Teams have a two-week period to apply this designation; this year’s deadline is on March 12 before 4:00 PM ET.
There are three tag versions: the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag, and the transition tag.
The exclusive is the most costly version and ensures that a player cannot negotiate with any other team.
The non-exclusive tag is more common because it’s not as costly as the exclusive version but it still allows players to be signed to an offer sheet. If the tagging team fails to match the offer, the tagging team receives two first round picks in exchange for the player (unless a trade is worked out otherwise).
The transition tag is the cheapest option but the tagging team receives no compensation if an offer sheet is not matched. It’s basically a right of first refusal situation.
Once a player signs his tag tender, his deal is fully guaranteed and cannot be rescinded. The tag CAN be rescinded by the team at any point before a player signs their offer.
For more information on how tagging works, read SB Nation’s detailed explainer.
Two tags this year?
Normally, teams are only permitted to tag one of their impending free agents. Due to the fact that we’re in the final year of the current CBA, however, teams are permitted to use both the franchise AND the transition tags.
However, the two tag option might not exist for long. If/when a new CBA is ratified, the NFLPA is reportedly expecting teams to vacate one of their two tags if they’ve already used both.
The Philadelphia Eagles should be rooting for the new CBA to quickly come together so their NFC East rival Cowboys have less leverage when it comes to retaining their key free agents. Dallas being forced to focus on Prescott and/or Cooper negotiations should help to ensure Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones — a rumored Eagles free agent target — makes it to the market.
Will the Eagles use the tag?
None of the Eagles’ 15 unrestricted free agents are worth tagging.
CB Ronald Darby
CB Jalen Mills
LT Jason Peters
S Rodney McLeod
WR Nelson Agholor
DE Vinny Curry
RB Jordan Howard
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
QB Nate Sudfeld
QB Josh McCown
DT Timmy Jernigan
RB Darren Sproles
TE Richard Rodgers
DT Hassan Ridgeway
For reference, here’s how much the tag costs at each position. Projected figures via Over The Cap:
How will other teams using the tag impact the Eagles?
Unlike the past two offseasons, the Eagles are actually expected to be active in free agency this year. Howie Roseman recently suggested as much and Philly has around $41.9 million in cap room to work with.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the tagging window is going to take some of their potential free agent options off the board. The aforementioned Cooper, Yannick Ngakoue, and James Bradberry are among those who might get tagged.
On the flip side, teams can’t use their tag(s) on everyone. So, the Eagles will be getting a better sense of which non-tagged players will be making it to the open market. Again, they could be paying close attention to someone like Jones. (Not to mention the cornerback and wide receiver markets in general.)
The Jones angle isn’t the only reason why it’ll be interesting to see how the Cowboys handle the tagging window. It’d be most ideal for Dallas’s sake to work out long-term contract extensions with both Prescott and Cooper. But the fact that those deals haven’t been done yet suggests the players are asking the Cowboys for prices that are higher than what Dallas is super comfortable paying. The Eagles will be rooting for the Cowboys to end up having to tag Prescott so he accounts for a big chunk of cap space. And the longer Dallas waits to give Prescott a long-term extension, the more his price tag increases. The Cowboys are likely going to have to pay him more than what Carson Wentz got despite the fact that Philly’s quarterback is the better player. And the more the Cowboys pay to Prescott means the less they can spend on the team around him.
NFL free agency is set to officially begin in a few weeks on Wednesday, March 18. In the meantime, the tagging window will help give us a better idea of what the market will look like.