The Buffalo Bills and 31 other NFL teams are free to use the franchise tag starting Tuesday, for a period that runs through March 1.
In the Bills' case, there is only one possible option for the tag – left tackle Cordy Glenn. General Manager Doug Whaley has said it's "imperative" to keep the left side of the team's offensive line together, meaning Glenn and guard Richie Incognito, who is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
What would the use of the franchise tag mean for both sides? Here is a rundown of how the tag works:
• It's a guaranteed one-year contract that is based on the average of the top five salaries at the player's position or 120 percent of his previously salary, whichever number is greater. In Glenn's case, current projections from NFL.com and ESPN put the value of the tag for an offensive lineman somewhere between $13.5 and $13.7 million. Let's split the difference and call it $13.6 million. The final number will not be exact until the NFL sets the 2016 salary cap, which is expected to happen early next month.
• There are two types of tags – exclusive and non-exclusive. An exclusive tag means a team holds all negotiating rights with a player. A non-exclusive tag means agents for players can negotiate a contract with another team, but the original team has the right to match any offer, and if it chooses not to, receives two first-round draft picks as compensation. There is also a transition tag, which is based on the average of the top 10 salaries at a player's position and is similar to the non-exclusive tag, but does not have draft-pick compensation for the original team if it chooses not to match a contract offer. The Buffalo Bills signed tight end Charles Clay away from the Miami Dolphins last year after he was given the transition tag.
• If a team uses the franchise tag, it has until July 15 to negotiate a long-term contract with that player. After that point, the player is locked into the one-year deal.
• The franchise tag has been in existence since 1993, but it's not a tool the Bills have used very often. Just four players – offensive tackle John Fina in 1996, wide receiver Peerless Price in 2003, cornerback Nate Clements in 2006 and safety Jairus Byrd in 2013 – have gotten tagged by the Bills.
According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, the Indianapolis Colts have used the tag an NFL-high 11 times since its inception, while the Atlanta Falcons have used it the least – just twice (Houston has used it once since it began play in 2002).
Byrd is one of 38 players to receive the franchise tag in the past four seasons, according to Seifert. In 2012 alone, 21 players were tagged. But as the salary cap has increased the past two seasons, the used of the tag has decreased. Just nine players have been tagged over the past two seasons, largely because teams have had more room under the salary cap to negotiate long-term contracts.
Of those 38 players to get the tag the past four years, Seifert reported half of them worked out long-term contracts before the July deadline.
If the Bills were to tag Glenn, that would certainly be preferable. The 26-year-old has started 61 of 64 career games since being a second-round draft pick out of Georgia in 2012, including all 16 in 2014 after having a kidney removed prior to the start of the season.
The Buffalo News' Tyler Dunne reported last month from the Senior Bowl that the "floor" for a new contract with Glenn is expected to be $10 million per year.
If Glenn were to be tagged, it would be as a last resort to prevent him from reaching unrestricted free agency. The goal of getting a long-term contract extension done by the July deadline would be shared by both sides.
The Bills, who are projected to be over the 2016 salary cap at the moment, would want to substantially lower the $13.6 million salary-cap hit that would come with the tag. The way to do that is to structure a long-term contract that more evenly spreads money out.
Glenn would prefer the security that comes with a long-term contract, one that could easily guarantee him more than $20 million over the life of the deal.
Story topics: Cordy Glenn