Before free agency kicks off for the 2022 NFL offseason, teams are allowed to apply franchise tags to players to give them a sense of what they need to do before the league year starts on March 16.
The Kansas City Chiefs became the first known team to put their franchise tag on a player, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday morning, when offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. was tagged before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. The Green Bay Packers tagged All-Pro receiver Davante Adams on Tuesday after news broke that Aaron Rodgers was returning.
The franchise tag is a designation that teams can apply to a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and it binds the player to the team for one season. Franchise-tag figures are based on the top five salaries at each position.
This year's salary cap is set at $208.2 million, up from $182.5 million in 2021.
Several teams face big decisions as far as rosters are concerned this offseason. Free-agency decisions, along with franchise tags, will be vital for teams to piece together their rosters. Teams will also be able to make trades, and then there's the draft April 28-30, when teams can infuse youth.
Here's a look at players who have been tagged, the reasons why and the tag figure:
Franchise tag salary: $16.66 million
Career highlights: Brown is a three-time Pro Bowler, twice in his first three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and then last season with the Chiefs. Last year, Brown requested a trade to a team that would play him at left tackle, his preferred position. He was mostly a right tackle with the Ravens. The Chiefs, after releasing longtime left tackle Eric Fisher, had a need and sent their 2021 first-round draft choice, among other picks, to the Ravens. Brown played well with the Chiefs, and at age 25 looks to be their long-term solution at the position.
Why he was tagged: The Chiefs weren't going to relinquish last year's first-round draft pick in return for a one-year player. There was a sense when they completed the trade for Brown -- who was then heading into the final year of his contract -- and didn't immediately sign him to a long-term extension that this was the likely outcome for Brown. The Chiefs, picking 30th in the first round this year, had no easy way of finding an adequate replacement for Brown if they decided to let him get to free agency.
What he brings: Brown, at 365 pounds, is bigger and stronger than most players at his position. Generally, if he gets his hands on an opposing pass-rusher, Brown wins that snap. But he doesn't have quick feet for a tackle and can struggle at times with speed rushers. That's one reason some teams were shy about acquiring Brown to play him at left tackle. But he had enough winning snaps last season that the Chiefs felt comfortable going forward with him at a most important line position -- Adam Teicher
Franchise tag salary: $10.93 million
Career highlights: Njoku, a first-round pick of the Browns in 2017, has totaled 148 receptions, 1,754 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns over four seasons in Cleveland. His best season came in 2018, when he connected with then-rookie QB Baker Mayfield for a career-high 56 receptions. After a couple of down years statistically, Njoku has since enjoyed a resurgence as a co-starter alongside Austin Hooper in coach Kevin Stefanski's two-tight-end base offense. After combining for just 24 catches the previous two years, he finished with 36 last season.
Why he was tagged: Tagging Njoku gives the Browns a window to work out a multiyear extension before the start of next season. If they can hammer out a deal before the July 15 deadline, the Browns can lower Njoku's cap hit for 2022 while keeping him under contract for the foreseeable future. If they can't, at least the Browns will have him for next season. Losing Njoku would've left Cleveland scrambling to find a tight end replacement in free agency when other needs are more pressing.
What he brings: Njoku knows Stefanski's system and he has enjoyed a rapport with Mayfield in the past, even if at times that's been sporadic. Njoku's ability to both block in Cleveland's run-heavy offense and also slip downfield and produce big plays off play-action is what the Browns need out of their tight ends for their offense to really click. That said, Cleveland will need Njoku to be a more consistent pass-catching threat week to week than what he has often shown in the past to make the money really count here. -- Jake Trotter
Franchise tag salary: $12.91 million
Career highlights: From the moment Bates arrived, the 2018 second-round pick out of Wake Forest has been a high-impact player for the Bengals. He started Week 1 of his rookie season and then proceeded to make 51 consecutive starts, the sixth-longest streak in franchise history. In 2020, Pro Football Focus rated Bates as the No. 1 safety in the league. He had two interceptions in Cincinnati's 2021 postseason run, including one against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.
Why he was tagged: Bates' rookie deal was set to expire at the end of the current league year. Cincinnati and Bates discussed a long-term contract before the 2021 season started, but those eventually fizzled out prior to Week 1. Bates had been trending toward the franchise tag even before he had a slow start in '21, before he finally rounded into form as Cincinnati secured its first playoff berth since 2015. The team values Bates as one of the franchise's best players but is obviously hesitant to lock him up to a long-term deal.
What he brings: Bates, 25, showed why he is so valuable during the Bengals' best season in 33 years. As a free safety, he gives defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo a lot of schematic flexibility at the back of the defense. That allows Cincinnati to play Cover 1 defense with Bates roaming in the backfield and lets Anarumo commit more players, including safety Vonn Bell, closer to the line of scrimmage. Bates made a deflection that led to the game-turning interception in overtime of the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs, a play that illustrated what he brings Cincinnati. -- Ben Baby
Franchise tag salary: $10.93 million
Career highlights: Gesicki has increased his receiving yards in each of his four NFL seasons, including a career-high 780 yards in 2021. Since entering the league in 2018, he ranks seventh in catches and eighth in receiving yards among tight ends.
Why he was tagged: General manager Chris Grier said the Dolphins had some conversations with Gesicki during the season but were unable to agree to a contract. Greer also said Gesicki wanted to see his value on the market, but the Dolphins made sure it didn't get to that point. This offense desperately needs playmakers and can't afford to lose its second-leading receiver from a season ago.
What he brings: Throughout his career, Gesicki has been more of a wide receiver than a tight end, logging more reps in the slot and out wide than he has at a traditional tight end position. He's a mismatch for safeties and cornerbacks and can outrun most linebackers. Gesicki needs to improve as a run-blocker but should be effective in a Mike McDaniel offense that highlights its tight ends. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques
Franchise tag salary: $10.93 million
Career highlights: After catching just 13 passes in his first two seasons, Schultz has developed into a safety net for quarterback Dak Prescott. In the past two seasons, he caught 141 passes for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns. He posted career highs in catches (78), yards (808) and touchdowns (eight) in 2021, joining Jason Witten as the only tight ends in team history with at least 70 catches and 800 yards in a season. He has played 994 and 971 snaps over the past two seasons.
Why he was tagged: In addition to being a valuable part of Prescott's play, the Cowboys wanted to protect themselves at tight end with Blake Jarwin's future in question because of major hip surgery that was performed last month. The Cowboys averaged a league-best 6.1 yards per play in two-tight end settings last year with Schultz being the vital part of the group. The Cowboys want to maintain an offense that is "Dak-friendly," and keeping a move-the-chains tight end is key for the quarterback.
What he brings: Schultz is a solid, productive tight end and would have received more on the open market. He will not wow defenses with his skill set, but he is better after the catch than some folks think. He is a decent blocker (73.9% run block win rate) and he is available. He has not missed a game over the past three seasons. The Cowboys can use him as an in-line tight end while also working him some in the slot. -- Todd Archer
Franchise tag salary: $16.6 million
Career highlights: Robinson has been the starter at left tackle since the team drafted him in the second round in 2017. The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing and reached the AFC title game in his rookie season. He has allowed 29 sacks in five seasons (Robinson missed 14 games in 2018), per ESPN Stats & Information research.
Why he was tagged: Bringing Robinson back likely means the Jaguars are thinking pass-rusher with the first overall pick -- unless the Jags just don't want to have a rookie left tackle protecting Trevor Lawrence's back side. With Robinson back, the Jaguars can have Walker Little compete with Jawaan Taylor, who has allowed 40 sacks in three seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info research, at right tackle.
What he brings: He may have his issues as a pass-blocker at times, but Robinson is a good run-blocker and finishes with an attitude. His experience is something the Jaguars clearly value. -- Michael DiRocco
Franchise tag salary: $20.12 million
Career highlights: There are so many ways to illustrate Adams' greatness, so how about this one: He's the only player in NFL history with three seasons of 110-plus catches, 1,350-plus receiving yards and 11-plus touchdown catches (he's done so in 2018, 2020 and 2021). He was a unanimous pick for first-team All-Pro by The Associated Press voters and became the first Packers receiver to earn All-Pro status in consecutive years since Sterling Sharpe in 1992 and 1993.
Why he was tagged: They can't let the best receiver in the league walk out the door and get only a compensatory pick in return. Adams won't like it, but what player does like getting tagged? It offers players no long-term security. However, the tag gives the Packers time to fix that with a long-term deal, or at least they can trade him (he would have to either sign the tag or a long-term deal before he could be traded) and get real value in return. There's the risk of angering Adams to the point where he refuses to sign a long-term deal and then the cap-strapped Packers would have to carry the tag number on their cap. But now that quarterback Aaron Rodgers has decided to return to the Packers, the Packers can get to work in earnest on making sure he's surrounded with players such as Adams.
What he brings: His connection with Rodgers. They're the most prolific QB-WR combination in Packers history, breaking the Packers franchise record for touchdowns by a duo. They now can keep building on that with Rodgers playing at an MVP level and Adams at an All-Pro level. Week after week, everyone in the stadium seemingly knew the ball was going to Adams, yet almost no one could stop it from happening. -- Rob Demovsky
Franchise tag salary: $19.18 million
Career highlights: Godwin has put together two 1,000-yard seasons -- in 2019 with Jameis Winston and in 2021 with Tom Brady, despite a torn ACL and MCL ending the receiver's season after 14 games this past year. His 75.2% receiving percentage over the past three seasons is fourth most of any receiver in the league. He has also had just three drops in that span despite playing four games last season with 10 pins in one index finger.
Why he was tagged: The Bucs and Godwin's agent spent Monday and Tuesday trying to work out a long-term deal but were unable to reach an agreement, per sources, although both sides said the discussions have been amicable. They will continue working toward a long-term extension, and it's possible a deal could still be done in time for Monday's legal tampering window to open up. But the tag can, at minimum, serve as a place holder to keep Godwin from hitting the open market.
What he brings: Consistency. Godwin's got some of the most reliable hands in the league. He's also versatile -- he lines up predominantly in the slot, serving as coach Bruce Arians' big slot receiver, but he's more than capable of lining up outside too. Further, he is extremely mature, level headed and dependable, and he's a very willing blocker in the run game. The Bucs have minimal concerns about the knee. They estimate he's already about 45% recovered. -- Jenna Laine