Browns TE David Njoku will play the 2022 NFL season on a franchise tender. (Rob Carr /Getty Images)
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Boardroom’s NFL Franchise Tag Cheat Sheet

What is the NFL’s franchise tag, anyway? Who’s getting tagged for the 2022 season? How much are they getting paid? You have questions, we have answers.

When you’re an unrestricted free agent in the National Football League, the open secret is that you’re not unrestricted in the literally true sense of the word. While the majority of players with UFA status are in charge of their own destiny, the hallowed tradition we know as the franchise tag can slow the roll of even the most spirited adherents of football’s open market.

So, what is the franchise tag, exactly? Who’s eligible to receive it? How many times can a team tag the same player? And most importantly, who will be playing under the tag for the 2022 season?

Boardroom is here to explain.

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What is a franchise tag?

The current collective bargaining agreement allows teams to assign the franchise tag to one impending unrestricted free agent per offseason. It effectively re-signs the player for one additional season. The actual contract a tagged player signs is known as a franchise tender.

How much does a player make under the franchise tag?

The dollar amount of an exclusive franchise tender is a set number determined by a player’s position and is not subject to negotiation. It cannot be less than the average of the current top five highest-paid players at that position for the upcoming season.

What is the franchise tag deadline?

Teams can tag eligible players up until Tuesday, March 8, at 4 p.m. ET.

Click here to read Boardroom’s list of key offseason dates leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft.

Can a player receive the franchise tag multiple years in a row?

Yes. A player’s second consecutive franchise tender will be worth 120% of his first franchise tender. If he is tagged a third time, his salary is designated as 144% of what he made in the previous season OR the average of the current top-five highest-paid players at the league’s highest-paid position — whichever is higher.

Can you trade a franchise-tagged player?

Yes, but only if they’ve actually signed the tender.

Sounds like it’s basically always a pay raise. Do NFL players like receiving the franchise tag?

No. It’s generally taken as a signal that your team wants you enough to keep you from leaving, but not enough to offer you a long-term deal.

Franchise-tagged NFL Players for 2022

Kansas City Chiefs OT Orlando Brown Jr.

Age: 25
Previous contract: 4 years, $6,871,945 (rookie scale, 2018-21)
2021 salary: $3,384,000
Estimated franchise tender: $16,600,000

The first player confirmed to have been given the franchise tag for the 2022 season, Brown is set to receive almost a fivefold increase in his salary from the previous year. Already a three-time Pro Bowler, Patrick Mahomes’ blind side protector remains a prime candidate for a long-term extension.

Cleveland Browns TE David Njoju

Age: 25
Previous contract: 5 years, $15,635,968 (rookie scale, 2017-21)
2021 salary: $6,013,000
Estimated franchise tender: $10,900,000

After setting a career high in yards per reception (13.2) and tying his personal best for touchdowns (4), David Njoku is back with the Browns for 2022 on a $10.9 million tender, the No. 2 cheapest sum in the league by position group.

For his career, he has 148 catches for 1,754 yards at 15 scores. The only other tight ends currently on the Browns’ roster are 23-year-old Harrison Bryant and two-time Pro Bowler Austin Hooper.

Bengals S Jessie Bates III

Age: 25
Previous contract: 4 years, $6,854,902 (rookie scale, 2018-21)
2021 salary: $2,433,000
Estimated franchise tender: $12,900,000

The first defensive player to receive the tag for 2022, Jessie Bates was a Second Team All-Pro in 2020. He’s started 63 of a possible 65 games so far in his career.

Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki

Age: 26
Previous contract: 4 years, $6,835,886 (rookie scale, 2018-21)
2021 salary: $1,381,626
Estimated franchise tender: $10,900,000

Could some controversy be afoot regarding Mike Gesicki? As Spotrac’s Mike Ginnitti notes, the Dolphins did use him more frequently as a receiver than a classic tight end in 2021, and since the size of the franchise tender is determined by position group, we’re looking at a difference of about $7.5 million — more than the entire sum Gesicki made in the first four NFL seasons to date.

(Which begs the question… which edge rushers are “really” linebackers, and which ones are “really” defensive ends?)

Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz

Age: 26
Previous contract: 4 years, $4,924,529 (rookie scale, 2018-21)
2021 salary: $2,183,000
Estimated franchise tender: $10,900,000

There were a few questions about how the Cowboys might proceed regarding the tag, including whether pass-rusher Randy Gregory would ultimately be the guy. But a one-off salary of not quite $11 million is tidy enough for Big D to manage as they talk through a long-term deal — and for Schultz, it’s more than twice what he’s made in his career so far.

Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin

Age: 26
Previous contract: 1 year, $15,983,000 (played under franchise tag)
2021 salary: $15,983,000
Estimated franchise tender: $19,100,000 (second consecutive tender)

The Buccaneers had several plausible franchise tag candidates, including cornerback Carlton Davis, but none was more intriguing than Godwin, who played under the tag last year before tearing his ACL late in the regular season.

Tom Brady’s not around anymore, but Godwin is a Pro Bowl- and All-Pro-caliber player when healthy, and Bruce Arians was not about to let him test the market before he had a chance to see what he’s capable of as he emerges from his knee injury.

Given that this is his second consecutive franchise tag, his salary is required to be 120% higher than what he made last year. Receivers receiving the tag for the first time this offseason will make approximately $17.4 million.

Click here to read Boardroom’s full Chris Godwin free agency breakdown.

Jaguars OT Cam Robinson

Age: 26
Previous contract: 1 year, $13,754,000 (played under franchise tag)
2021 salary: $13,754,000
Estimated franchise tender: $16,500,000 (second consecutive tender)

A solid left tackle is hard to come by, and the Jaguars are more than content to tag Trevor Lawrence’s blind side man for another year. As with Godwin, the 2017 second-round pick will make 120% of last year’s compensation.

Packers WR Davante Adams

Age: 29
Previous contract: 4 years, $58,000,000
2021 salary: $12,687,500
Reported franchise tender: $20,100,000

The biggest shoe that needed to drop in Green Bay? The curious case of one Aaron Rodgers, who is officially back with the Packers for 2022. That made a decision on Davante Adams, the No. 1 imminent free agent on the board, an incredibly easy one: Put the tag on him and lock in an absolutely lethal quarterback-receiver duo for (at least) one more year.

Click here to read Boardroom’s full Davante Adams free agency breakdown.

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