How the NFL franchise tag works and why the Seahawks likely can't use it

Seattle needs to create a bit of cap room.

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The Seattle Seahawks, like every other team in the NFL, can officially place the franchise tag on any impending free agent beginning Tuesday. Since general manager John Schneider came to Seattle, however, the team has rarely used the tag. They did so once because they knew the player would likely be traded before Seattle needed to pay him.

The franchise tag is a useful tool, however. If a team doesn't want to lose a player, they can make sure he doesn't leave. That doesn't always make the player happy, of course.

Seattle has several free agents they would like to keep. The problem is that using the tag can be costly. Here is what the franchise tag does and why the Seahawks are extremely unlikely to use it in the 2024 offseason.

What is the NFL franchise tag?

The tag is a security blanket for a team. Once a team places the tag on a player, that guarantees that the player cannot leave for another team until the next offseason. The issue for the team is the tag means the player gets a fully guaranteed one-year contract which can be costly as the amount the player makes is based on the following, per Over The Cap:

"Franchise and transition tenders are calculated by adding the respective tag numbers, divided by the sum of the salary caps, from the previous five seasons, and finally multiplied by the current season's salary cap." That is some high math.

A tag can be placed on a player in hopes a longer deal is worked out before mid-July to make both the team and player happy. If a deal does not get worked out, the tag will take effect and a player will not have long-term security but the team will be paying a guaranteed high dollar for the player. A team can only place the franchise tag on one player per offseason.

Why the Seahawks are almost barred from using the franchise tag in 2024

Seattle currently has negative cap room. This is the case no matter which site one looks at such as Over The Cap or Spotrac and others of that ilk. For Seattle to place the tag on a player, they first need to have the money to spend on said player, and the Seahawks simply do not have that. Even if they release players such as Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs to create cap space, Seattle would still be hurting itself by giving one player so much of the space saved.

Have the Seahawks ever used the NFL Franchise Tag?

Since John Schneider started running the team, Seattle has used the franchise tag twice. Once was in his first season of 2010. That tag was placed on - and no, I am not making this up - kicker Olindo Mare. Mare had been a Pro Bowl kicker prior to that but in 1999, a decade earlier. After being tagged, Mare went 25 of 30 on field goals in 2010 and was out of the league completely two years later.

Seattle also placed the tag on edge rusher Frank Clark in 2019, but that appeared to be part of a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs as Clark was then traded to KC. This meant that KC knew they were going to have Clark under control for 2019 and they then worked out an extension with Clark.

2024 franchise tag projections

Seattle would probably love to keep players such as linebacker Jordyn Brooks, defensive tackle Leonard Williams, possibly guard Damien Lewis and backup quarterback Drew Lock. But the Seahawks are not going to franchise tag any of them because Seattle cannot afford to. Here is what each player would have to be paid if the tag were placed upon their heads.

Quarterback Drew Lock: $36,293,000
Guard Damien Lewis: $19,885,000
Linebacker Jordyn Brooks: $22,748,000
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams: $20,943,000

Seattle has from February 20 through March 5 to make a decision to place a tag. Free agency starts soon thereafter so an unrestricted free agent without a tag can negotiate with any team he wants to. Instead of deciding who to franchise tag, the Seahawks will probably be focused on who to release to create cap room.

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