Before NFL free agency begins, teams are allowed to apply franchise tags to players beginning Feb. 21 and through March 7 to give them a sense of what they need to do before the league year starts on March 15.
What is the franchise tag?
The franchise tag is a designation 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. The NFL has told its 32 teams that the 2023 salary cap will be a record $224.8 million, up from $208.2 million last year.
Last season, eight players were franchise-tagged. Among them was wide receiver Davante Adams, whom the Green Bay Packers tagged before eventually trading him to the Las Vegas Raiders after he told Green Bay he would not play under the tag. Here's a look at players who have been tagged, the reasons they were and the tag figure:
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
The Giants placed the tag on Barkley minutes ahead of Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline after agreeing to terms on a new deal with quarterback Daniel Jones.
Franchise tag salary: $10.1 million
Career highlights: Barkley won Offensive Rookie of the Year after being the No. 2 overall pick in 2018 when he rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns. After three injury-plagued seasons, he finally returned to his previous Pro Bowl form. Barkley was fourth in the NFL with 1,312 yards rushing in 2022.
Why he was tagged: This may just be a placeholder. There is optimism that Barkley and the Giants could agree on a long-term deal before the start of free agency. The tag became a realistic possibility after New York reached agreement on a four-year deal with Jones just before the franchise tag deadline arrived.
What he brings: Barkley is the Giants' top offensive playmaker. He's also an unquestioned leader in the locker room. He does bring with him some injury risk, but when healthy he's a dynamic player. This past season he proved that he still has it in him to be one of the league's best running backs.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens placed the franchise tag on Jackson on Tuesday, taking the NFL's top potential free agent off the market. The Ravens used the nonexclusive tag on Jackson, sources told ESPN.
Franchise tag salary: $32 million (non-exclusive)
Career highlights: Jackson was the unanimous NFL MVP in 2019 and the youngest quarterback (at age 23) to win the award. He has also become the most accomplished dual-threat quarterback in NFL history. Jackson is the only quarterback with multiple games of three-plus touchdown passes and 100-plus yards rushing (four times).
Why he was tagged: The Ravens and Jackson have been unable to reach a long-term deal after 25 months of negotiations. Sources told ESPN last year that Baltimore balked at Jackson's wish for a fully guaranteed deal at signing, similar to the one Deshaun Watson signed a year ago (five years, $230 million) with the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens believe Watson's deal is more of an outlier than a precedent.
What he brings: Jackson is a winner. His career mark of 45-16 (.738) in the regular season is the fourth-best of any starting quarterback to debut in the Super Bowl era. But there have been increased concerns about his durability. Jackson has missed 10 of Baltimore's past 22 games, including the postseason.
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are placing the franchise tag on Pollard for the 2023 season, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Monday.
Franchise tag salary: $10.09 million
Career highlights: Seeing the most action of his career in 2022, Pollard ran for 1,007 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He scored 12 touchdowns, eclipsing the total he had in his first three seasons after the Cowboys took him in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.
Why he was tagged: Along with receiver CeeDee Lamb, Pollard is the top playmaker on offense. He can take the ball to the end zone at any time. At $10.1 million, it made more sense to tag him now than to work out a multiyear agreement at this moment. If the price is right, they could reach a deal before the July 15 deadline.
What he brings: Big-play ability. His 5.94 yards per touch was the most among NFL running backs with a minimum of 150 touches. He had four plays of at least 46 yards last season. Although he has the speed, he also is better between the tackles than most think and thrives after contact, too. If the Cowboys move on from Ezekiel Elliott, they will have to add another back in the draft or free agency.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are planning to use the franchise tag on Jacobs for the 2023 season, sources confirmed to ESPN on Friday.
Franchise tag salary: $10.091 million
Career highlights: The 2019 first-rounder responded to the Raiders' new regime not exercising his fifth-year option by leading the NFL in rushing (1,653 yards) and yards from scrimmage (2,053). He was named first-team All-Pro and was selected to his second Pro Bowl. Jacobs has rushed for 4,740 yards and 40 touchdowns in his four-year career while catching 160 passes for 1,152 yards.
Why he was tagged: It would seem as though the Raiders are still taking a wait-and-see approach with Jacobs, wondering if his career season of 2022 was more of an exception rather than the norm. Jacobs said he wanted a long-term deal, but it had "to make sense" to him, so being tagged could potentially have a less-than-desired effect.
What he brings: Raiders coach Josh McDaniels had to alter his running back-by-committee philosophy because of Jacobs' production, as Jacobs became the first Raider to lead the league in rushing since Marcus Allen in 1985. Off the field, Jacobs is a leader in the locker room and one of the more outspoken players to the media.
Evan Engram, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are expected to place the franchise tag on tight end Evan Engram, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Thursday.
Franchise tag salary: $11.345 million
Career highlights: Engram set career highs in catches (73) and receiving yards (766) in 2022, which was his first season with the Jaguars after five years with the New York Giants. He has 335 career catches for 3,594 yards and 20 touchdowns after being taken by the Giants at No. 23 overall in 2017.
Why he was tagged: Both Engram and the Jaguars want to put together a deal that will keep him in Jacksonville for multiple years. Using the tag gives the Jaguars more time to get that done and avoid having Engram hit the free agent market.
What he brings: Engram is almost a wide receiver in terms of his skill set, and that's how the Jaguars used him in 2022. He lined up in multiple spots and had a lot of success on crossing patterns, especially from the slot. Coach Doug Pederson admitted during the season that Engram is a better blocker than expected, too.
Daron Payne, DT, Washington Commanders
Franchise tag salary: $18.937 million
Career highlights: Payne recorded a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2022, third among defensive tackles. He was second among all tackles with 21 tackles for a loss. Payne was named a Pro Bowl alternate this season, eventually being added to the game. Payne, who has started 75 games, has 26 career sacks.
Why he was tagged: Washington does not want to break up arguably the NFL's best defensive tackle tandem. Jonathan Allen has made two consecutive Pro Bowls. Washington signed Allen to an extension in 2021 and, before this season, was reluctant to give Payne a similar deal based on past performance. But then Payne ascended. Washington will keep negotiating with him.
What he brings: Power and quickness off the ball. Washington uses a one-gap scheme so Payne's ability to quickly shoot gaps makes him dangerous. Before last season, though, he was considered a run-stopper. He can also play over the center when they go to an odd front. He's also durable: Payne hasn't missed a game the past three seasons.