Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make use of the franchise tag option for the fourth year in a row? They have two weeks to decide.
The NFL's 2023 franchise tag window opened on Tuesday and will conclude at 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 7. The new league year commences on Wednesday, March 15, and with it comes the start of free agency.
The Buccaneers used the franchise tag on outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett in 2020 after he had set a franchise record with 19.5 sacks the prior season. Barrett played the 2020 season the one-year contract that came with the tag, then signed a new multi-year deal before the start of free agency in 2021. Wide receiver Chris Godwin got the tag in both 2021 and 2022, playing the former season on the tag's one-year contract and then signing a new long-term deal nine days after being tagged in 2022.
The Buccaneers have a list of 23 pending unrestricted free agents from their 2022 roster, including linebacker Lavonte David and defensive backs Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Mike Edwards.
The franchise tag, which came into existence with the first collective bargaining agreement in 1993, allows a team to retain exclusive negotiating rights with one pending unrestricted free agent, or set itself up for a significant amount of compensation if that player signs elsewhere. It carries with it a hefty one-year price tag that varies by position. The transition tag is similar but does not include compensation for departing players and carries a somewhat smaller price tag.
There are also two varieties of franchise tags, exclusive and non-exclusive. Exclusive tags carry a higher price tag but prohibit the tagged player from negotiating with any other team. Players with non-exclusive tags can negotiate with other teams but if they receive an offer their original team can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks from the signing team in compensation. A team can only use a franchise or a transition tag in any given season, not both.
Godwin was the first player in Bucs history to receive the franchise tag twice. Overall, Tampa Bay has utilized that option seven times. In addition to Barrett and Godwin, other Buccaneers to get the franchise tag include tackle Paul Gruber in 1993, defensive end Chidi Ahanotu in 1999, wide receiver Antonio Bryant in 2009 and kicker Connor Barth in 2012.
The one-year salary associated with the exclusive franchise tag is based on the average of the top five salaries at a player's position in that current year. The non-exclusive tag is based on the average of the top five salaries over the last five seasons combined.