Jaylon Johnson

Bears use non-exclusive franchise tag on Jaylon Johnson. What that exactly means

There are several rules that dictate how the non-exclusive franchise tag works for Johnson and the Bears

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The news we’ve been expecting for weeks arrived on Tuesday: the Bears used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jaylon Johnson. It’s a move that either keeps Johnson in Chicago for the 2024 season, or gives the Bears big time compensation if he walks. But what exactly does it mean, and what’s the difference between the non-exclusive franchise tag, the exclusive tag and the transition tag?

If you don’t want to dig through NFL legalese, we’re here to help.

Technically, there are three types of tenders that teams can use as a tag, but one is used far more often than the others. Those tenders are:

-Non-exclusive franchise tag
-Exclusive franchise tag
-Transition tag

The non-exclusive franchise tag is the most common option, and is almost always what people are talking about when they say “franchise tag.” Under this tender, a player earns the average of the top-five salaries at his position over the last five years, or 120% of his previous salary, whichever is greater. A player who has been tagged with this tender is free to negotiate with other teams for a contract extension, and if he agrees to terms with another team, his current team has the opportunity to match. If they opt not to match, then the player’s new team must send the previous team two first-round draft picks as compensation.

Under the exclusive franchise tag, a player earns the average of the top-five salaries at his position for the current year, or 120% of his previous salary, whichever is greater. However, a player cannot negotiate with other teams.

Then there’s the transition tag, which pays a player the average of the top-10 salaries at his position. A player can negotiate for a new deal with other teams under this tender, and his current team still has the option to match any offer sheet. However, if the team decides to let the player leave for another deal, they receive no compensation in return. The Bears used the transition tag on Kyle Fuller in 2018, and Fuller eventually agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal with the Packers. The Bears didn’t let Fuller walk, however, and matched the Packers offer sheet.

In the Bears’ case, Johnson was always going to get the non-exclusive option, because it’s both cheaper than the exclusive and because of the major compensation they’d receive if Johnson agreed to a deal with another team that they wouldn’t want to match. Realistically though, the two first-round draft picks due to the Bears are enough to dissuade any team from negotiating with Johnson. We know that the Bears granted Johnson permission to seek a trade at the deadline. It was reported that the Bears set the price at a first-round draft pick. If no team would pony up one first-rounder last season, why would they want to fork over two now?

So why wouldn’t the Bears try to save even more cash by using the transition tag, like they did with Fuller? Without the protection of the two first-round pick compensation, a team could sign Johnson to a huge extension that Poles isn’t comfortable matching, and if he doesn’t they’d get nothing in return.

The franchise tag was initially created to give NFL teams more time to negotiate long-term deals with their top players. Accordingly, the tag pushes the deadline for the Bears to sign Johnson to a contract extension back from March 13 to mid-July. Sometimes teams and players do use that extra time to come together for a new deal. Oftentimes however, the tag is used as a de facto one-year, fully guaranteed deal.

If the Bears and Johnson cannot come to terms on a new deal before their new summer deadline, then Johnson can either sign the tag to earn $19.8 million this year or decide to hold out.

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