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NFL Offseason 101: Franchise Tags and Transition Players

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Franchise tag deadline day is finally here. All 32 NFL teams have until before 4:00 PM EST today, Monday, March 2 to designate franchise (or transition) players. What does that mean?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 new league year is nearly upon us.  Before we can put the final nails in the coffin for the 2014 season, however, the NFL still has a few things to wrap up.  One of them is the matter of each franchise deciding whether or not they want to designate any players whose contracts are set to expire as franchise or transition players.  Although the Saints are unlikely to tag anyone this year, we have all been seeing reports of teams using their "franchise tags" on star players, as New Orleans did with Jimmy Graham a year ago.

But what do these terms mean? They allow a team to designate certain players as critical to the team's success, and effectively add a one-year extension -- for which the player will be paid a premium -- to any player's contract which is set to expire at the end of this league year.  How much the team is required to pay the "tagged" player, and whether they receive any compensation in the event another team signs said player, depends on which designation they use:

FRANCHISE PLAYER: Each team may name one Franchise Player, and that label must remain with him until his contract expires or until he is released. He will be paid at least the average of the top five highest paid players at his position. He may sign an "Offer Sheet" with any other team, but his original team has seven days to match any offer he receives. If the original team declines to match the offer, compensation in the form of two first round draft picks in consecutive years will be awarded from the signing team.

TRANSITION PLAYER: Each team may name two Transition Players, and that label must remain with them until their contracts expire or until they are released. They will be paid at least the average of the top ten highest paid players at his position. A Transition Player may sign an "Offer Sheet" with any other team, but his original team has seven days to match any offer he receives. If the original team declines to match the offer, no compensation will be awarded.

There may be a couple of terms in there with which not every fan is familiar:

OFFER SHEET:  A contract offer from another team signed by a RFA, Transition Player, of Franchise Player.  The player's original team has seven days to match the offer and retain the player.

COMPENSATORY DRAFT PICKS: Compensation awarded by the league to teams who lost more Undrafted Free Agents than they signed.  Compensation is in the form of extra draft picks added to the end of rounds three through seven.  The quantity and quality of picks is determined by the difference of UFAs signed to UFAs lost.  For example, if a team loses 4 UFAs and signs 1 UFA, they could receive three Compensatory Selections.  The value of the picks is determined by the difference of the contracts signed by the players lost and those acquired.  The highest possible compensatory pick is the 31st of the third round (91st overall).  Teams that gain and lose the same number of players but lose higher-valued players than they gain also can be awarded a pick, but only in the seventh round, after the other compensatory picks.


The new league year opens at 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. Central) on March 10th, when unrestricted free agents can sign with any team.  Senio Kelemete is the only exclusive rights free agent from the 2014 squad, and the team has chosen to pick up the option on his contract.  Here’s a list of the Saints' unrestricted and restricted free agents for the 2015 offseason:


Unrestricted:
Brandon Deaderick, DL
Moise Fokou, LB
Jonathan Goodwin, C
Shayne Graham, K  (Signed Feb 12th:  1 year, $970,000)
Parys Haralson, LB (Signed Feb 12th:  1 year, $870,000)
Ramon Humber, LB
Mark Ingram, RB
Luke McCown, QB  (Signed Feb 5th: 1 year, $970,000)
Robert Meachem, WR
Patrick Robinson, CB
Jamarca Sanford, S


Restricted:
Travaris Cadet, RB
Bryce Harris, OT
Tyrunn Walker, DL


Exclusive Rights:

Senio Kelemete, G  (Contract Extension Announced Feb 9th:  1 year, $585,000)