What is the NFL Franchise Tag and what does it mean?

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers
Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers to using the franchise tag. In fact, they've tagged free agents for seven straight years beginning in 2018. They tagged DeMarcus Lawrence that year and again in 2019 before inking the defensive end to a long-term deal.

Dak Prescott infamously followed Lawrence the next two seasons before the Cowboys prevented Dalton Schultz from leaving via the tag in 2022. This past year, Tony Pollard was franchise-tagged for $10.09 million even though Pollard was coming off a fractured fibula and high-ankle sprain.

With the 2024 franchise tag deadline approaching, let's take a look at what the tag is, how it works and how it could impact the Cowboys this year.

What is the NFL franchise tag?

The franchise tag is essentially a roster designation that allows teams to keep unrestricted free agents. If a team hangs the tag on a player, they remain under the team's control for the following season. It's a de facto one-year fully guaranteed contract that allows a player to earn a reasonable salary despite failing to secure long-term security.

The tag also gives a player and team additional time to negotiate a new contract. Tagged players have until mid-July to agree to a new deal. Once the deadline passes, they can only play out the season on the tag.

When is the 2024 franchise tag deadline?

This year's tag deadline falls on Monday, July 17 at 3:00 p.m. CT. Teams have a two-week period spanning February 20-March 5 to apply the tag. The hard deadline is the cutoff for contract negotiations.

How much is the franchise tag worth in 2024?

The tag's worth varies depending on position. Per Over The Cap, the figures are determined "by adding the respective tag numbers, divided by the sum of the salary caps, from the previous five seasons, and finally multiplied by the current season's salary cap."

  • Quarterback – $35.95 million
  • Running Back – $12.41 million
  • Wide Receiver – $21.67 million
  • Tight End – $12.37 million
  • Offensive Linemen – $21.72 million
  • Defensive End – $23.35 million
  • Defensive Tackle – $19.75 million
  • Linebacker – $21.92 million
  • Cornerback – $18.42 million
  • Safety – $17.22 million
  • Special Teams – $5.83 million

It's important to note this is the value for players tagged for the first time. For example, if the Cowboys tagged Stephon Gilmore, he would earn $18.42 million fully guaranteed in 2024. If they were to tag Tony Pollard for the second time, Pollard would earn a 20 percent increase over the previous year.

Will the Cowboys use the franchise tag in 2024?

It's looking like the Cowboys won't, in fact, use the tag this year. That would snap a streak of seven straight seasons of applying the tag. While the team would like to keep some of its unrestricted free agents, the cost of doing so on the tag would make little sense. There's no obvious tag candidate this year like in years past.

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