Definition of Exclusive Franchise Tag

What is an "exclusive franchise tag" when it comes to the NFL? What is the definition of the term "exclusive franchise tag"?

Per the terms of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams have the right to keep control of players that don't have long-term deals via a one-year tender offer.

This is commonly referred to as "tagging" a player. In most cases, "tagging" a player refers to the non-exclusive franchise tag, though there are some cases where the "exclusive" franchise tag is used.

The King of Sports explains the meaning of the football term Exclusive Franchise Tag.  And provides examples of course.

There are two main differences between the non-exclusive and exclusive franchise tag:

1) Players who get the exclusive franchise tag will receive the average of the top five salaries at the player's position for the current year, or 120% of their previous salary, whichever is greater. With the non-exclusive franchise tag, you take the average of the top five salaries at the player's position over the past five years, which is a big difference in money.

2) Players who receive the exclusive franchise tag can not negotiate with other teams, while players with the non-exclusive franchise tag can. If a player on a non-exclusive franchise tag gets signed by another team and the previous team decides not to match, the signing team must give up two first round draft picks.

The exclusive franchise tag is quite rare - a recent example of the exclusive tag came in 2017 when the Redskins gave QB Kirk Cousins the exclusive franchise tag, one year after giving him the non-exclusive tag.

This resulted in Kirk Cousins receiving a massive salary for the 2017 season of $23,943,600, as he was entitled to receive the greater of the top five salaries at his position for the current year, or 20% above his previous year's salary. Cousins ended up making $23,943,600 during the 2017 season, which was a 20% raise over the previous year.

This gave Cousins a strong negotiating position while he was seeking a long-term deal, as he was guaranteed $23,943,600 before even stepping onto the field in 2017, plus the Redskins would have had to have paid him even more if they were to tag him again in 2018. So, Cousins entered long-term negotiations with essentially $50 million+ in guarantees already wrapped up.

The exclusive franchise tag takes away the rights of the player to negotiate with another team, though teams that use this tag will have to pay up, as the player will be guaranteed a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the position.

Le'Veon Bell was an interesting case study, as the Steelers elected to use the exclusive franchise tag on him, though Bell chose not to play. Bell felt as though he was being underpaid at the running back position as he was such an essential part of the team's passing game, so getting an average of the top five running back salaries still would have been an underpay, at least in his eyes. Plus, he wanted a long-term deal with guaranteed money, which signing the exclusive franchise tag wouldn't have given him.