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The NFL’s Exclusive vs. Non-exclusive Franchise Tags: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
After Lamar Jackson got the designation from the Ravens this week, it’s time to answer the question: what is the non-exclusive franchise tag in the NFL, exactly?

The NFL franchise tag deadline expired this week, with Baltimore Ravens superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson receiving a non-exclusive franchise tag that could see him playing for another team next season. Our 2023 franchise tag tracker also showed star running backs Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, and Josh Jacobs tagged by the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Las Vegas Raiders, respectively, with exclusive tags.

Each team gets to use one tag per season, with those players receiving one-year contracts with the chance to negotiate with their respective teams on long-term contracts by July 17.

So, what does “non-exclusive franchise tag” mean, anyway, and how does it differ from the exclusive tag under NFL roster rules? You have questions, Boardroom has answers.

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What Does “Exclusive Franchise Tag” Mean?

A player who gets an exclusive tag from his team is prevented from negotiating with other teams on long-term contracts.

These players get a one-year deal at the larger amount between:

  1. The average of the five largest per-year salaries at his given position at the conclusion of the restricted free agent signing period on April 21
  2. The amount of the non-exclusive franchise tag

The last player to receive an exclusive tag was quarterback Dak Prescott of the Cowboys in 2021.

What is the Non-exclusive Franchise Tag?

A more popular decision by comparison, every NFL player to receive the franchise tag for 2023 falls under the non-exclusive category. The player gets a one-year deal with a salary number set at the higher value between:

  1. The average cap percentage average for his position, calculated as the sum of the franchise-tag amounts at a player’s position over the previous five seasons divided by the sum of the NFL salary caps over the previous five seasons multiplied by the current cap
  2. 120% of a player’s Prior Year Salary, calculated as his cap number from the previous season minus any performance-based incentives

Here are the non-exclusive franchise tag salaries by position group:

  • QB: $32.416 million
  • RB: $10.091 million
  • WR: $19.743 million
  • TE: $11.345 million
  • OL: $18.244 million
  • DE: $19.727 million
  • DT: $18.937 million
  • LB: $20.926 million
  • CB: $18.140 million
  • S: $14.460 million
  • K/P: $5.393 million

Here’s where things get interesting: Opposing teams have the opportunity to sign non-exclusive franchise tag players to a long-term offer sheet, with incumbent teams given the opportunity to match similar to restricted free agency in the NBA. Should the incumbent team decide to not match the offer sheet, it would receive the equivalent of two first-round picks as compensation.

While Jackson is getting all the attention as a non-exclusive free agent, nothing is preventing a team from offering Barkley or Jacobs a big contract as well. Free agency officially gets underway when the 2023 NFL league year begins on March 15 — get strapped in.

More Contracts & Salaries:

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