What is the NFL franchise tag and what does it mean?

New England Patriots Introduce Jerod Mayo as Head Coach
New England Patriots Introduce Jerod Mayo as Head Coach / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

The 2024 NFL offseason is starting to kick up over the next few weeks, with the Combine set to end the month and free agency beginning in a little over three weeks. And who could forget the Draft at the end of April?

But before those events take place, the franchise tag window is set to open this week.

To learn all about what the franchise tag is, what it means, how it will impact the Patriots, and more, keep on reading.

What is the NFL franchise tag?

The NFL franchise tag is a method a team uses to ensure one of their free agents receives a one-year, fully guaranteed contract with a set salary, preventing them from signing elsewhere. This means the player can no longer test the free agent market and cannot be in contact with any other team to discuss a deal.

Typically, this provides the front office more time to work out a new deal with a player and, by signing the franchise tag, allows the parties to work out an extension until mid-July. If that doesn't come to fruition, then the player will only play on the tag for the upcoming season.

It is a tool that teams implement every so often, depending on what players are set to hit free agency, but it's not a well-liked scenario for the team or the player.

Although they receive quite a hefty paycheck for the season, it can also be a sign that the team may not be willing to sign them to an extension, meaning they play without the security of a job next season. And the team is dishing out a lot of money for essentially a one-year rental if a new deal cannot be agreed to.

Will the Patriots use the franchise tag in 2024?

If Bill Belichick were still in the building, it would be fair to assume the answer would be no. However, with Jerod Mayo taking over and Eliot Wolf assuming the general manager role, it's difficult to predict what they might do because we have no history to look back on.

Because there are a handful of important players becoming free agents next month (like Kyle Dugger and Mike Onwenu), it may be easier to lock those guys down by implementing the franchise tag. However, both would receive a massive paycheck from the tag, which may not be ideal during an offseason where the team desperately needs upgrading.

When must the Patriots decide to use the NFL franchise tag in 2024?

The franchise tag window opens on Tuesday, February 20, and closes on March 5.

After those two weeks pass, no team can tag a player until next year.

Have the Patriots ever used the franchise tag?

The Patriots have sparingly used the franchise tag over the last 20+ years, as Bill Belichick was not all that interested in paying players more than what he could likely give them with a new contract.

Surprisingly, throughout his time in New England, Belichick used the tag ten times, more so during the early to mid-2000s. Here is who he chose to franchise tag during his tenure:

  • 2002: K Adam Vinatieri
  • 2003: S Trebucky Jones
  • 2005: K Adam Vinatieri
  • 2007: CB Asante Samuel
  • 2009: QB Matt Cassel
  • 2010: DT Vince Wilfork
  • 2011: G Logan Mankins
  • 2012: WR Wes Welker
  • 2015: K Stephen Gostkowski
  • 2020: G Joe Thuney

2024 franchise tag projections

The cost of franchise tagging a player depends on the year and the position they play. The dollar amount increases every season and is based on a formula the NFL follows to determine that projection.

Based on what those amounts are this offseason, here is where the Patriots would line up with their list of unrestricted free agents:

Patriots 2024 franchise tag projections

  • Wide receivers (Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Reagor, Matthew Slater): $20,672,000
  • Tight ends (Pharaoh Brown, Mike Gesicki, Hunter Henry): $12,027,000
  • Safeties (Kyle Dugger): $16,224,000
  • Running backs (Ezekiel Elliott): $11,326,000
  • Linebackers (Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche, Mack Wilson): $22,748,000
  • Offensive line (Trent Brown, Mike Onwenu): $19,885,000
  • Cornerbacks (Myles Bryant, Jalen Mills): $18,762,000

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