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NFL Franchise Tag Vs. Transition Tag: Explaining the Difference

February 23rd, 2014 at 6:55 AM
By Jen Polashock

Most know it is a rare time when the New York Giants utilize the Franchise tag on a player, as they tend to be pretty amicable and open in communicating when working on contracts and extensions. This piece may very well me moot when it comes to Big Blue and how they do their players; however, some ask about NFL terms and some use them as if they’re interchangeable. We just try to provide clarification from time to time.

WEBN-TV / Foter / CC BY-ND

Buying time with the placement of a franchise tag is how the Giants have used the rule. They haven’t been one of the franchises that “trap” a player or another organization as done in the past. Some of you may remember the Steve Hutchinson poison-pill deal in 2006 (sent the All-Pro guard from Seattle to Minnesota). Since that happened, the transition tag was used once more (in 2008 by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Max Starks). Since the NFL Lockout and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the rule has been altered.

Giants CEO John Mara reflected last March on the “poison pill” situation and how the most recent CBA changed it.

"Yes, that was a big part of our negotiation a couple of years ago because we wanted to take out the Hutchinson type of deals," Mara said in reference to ongoing negotiations and tag of wide receiver Victor Cruz. He also stated the addition by subtraction: "gives you a little bit more comfort, where if somebody does come forward with an offer, it gives you a fair chance to match it if you decide to do that."

However, this type of designation won’t be used like its colleague designation, the franchise tag. There’s one simple reason why: compensation.

While the salary portion of the rule hasn’t changed per Article 10, Section 11 of said CBA:

“Other Terms: For the purposes of this Article, the Required Tenders of a one-year Player Contract for at least 120% (or 1 44%, if the player is eligible to receive such a Tender) of the Franchise Player's or 120% of the Transition Player's Prior Year Salaries shall in addition to the 1 20% or 144% Salary also include all other terms of the player's Prior Year contract, including any guarantees and any provisions providing for incentives or performance bonuses. In addition, a player who is designated as a Franchise Player or a Transition Player shall have the option of accepting a one year NFL Player Contract for 120% (or 1 44%, if the player is eligible to receive such a Tender) of the player's Prior Year Salary in lieu of a Player Contract for the average of the five (or ten, as applicable) largest applicable Salaries for players at his position, if he so wishes, regardless of which Player Contract is for a greater amount.”

This doesn’t mean they are one in the same. Basically, a transition player tag gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires, like the franchise tag. The difference: if the team matches, it retains the player; if it does not match, no compensation is awarded to the team. Think of when Restricted Free Agent (RFA) wideout Victor Cruz had a first-round tag placed on him. If the situation presented and he been “transitioned” and eventually signed elsewhere, the New York Giants would get absolutely nothing.

What team wants absolutely nothing after attempting to keep a player they clearly want?


NFL Franchise Tag Vs. Transition Tag: Explaining the Difference

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Tags: Collective Bargaining Agreement, Football, John Mara, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers, Victor Cruz

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