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What is the 'franchise' tag?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09: Michael Vick #7

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles walks of the field after losing to the Green Bay Packers during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Photo Credit: Getty/Al Bello

It's a key buzzword in NFL circles, one you hear thrown about often in the offseason. "Franchise."

Players get "franchised," and teams "put the franchise tag" on players. But what the heck does that really mean? Jets beat writer Roderick Boone explains below:

NFL teams may apply the franchise tag to a player who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Every team may use the tag once a year, and it has two forms, exclusive and non-exclusive.

The exclusive tag means the player can negotiate only with the team that designated him; a non-exclusive tag allows the player to negotiate with other teams and seek a trade.

Rules stipulate that the compensation for signing a franchise player away from his team is two first-round picks. Teams also may work out trades with different terms.

With the uncertainty surrounding the impending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, it's not clear precisely what a franchise tag means now. The NFLPA believes the tags are worthless because the current labor deal is set to end at midnight March 3, and the union may wind up going to court and challenging the tag's use.
 

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