INDIANAPOLIS — It's that time of year where the term "franchise tag" is thrown around NFL circles.
For the Indianapolis Colts, they haven't been as active with the tag system in recent years, but they've used it more than any other team (11 times) since its inception in 1993.
For teams with critical players due to become unrestricted free agents, the team can place the franchise tag on that player, which buys them more time to negotiate a long-term deal. The tag is a one-year contract worth either 120 percent of the player's previous-year salary or the average of the top five salaries at that player's position across the league — whichever is higher.
The franchise tag can be broken down into two categories — exclusive and non-exclusive — the latter being the most commonly used around the league. With the exclusive tag, other teams are not permitted to negotiate with that player. With the non-exclusive designation, other teams can negotiate with that player, but the player's current team has the right to match the offer. If they choose not to match, the other team must surrender two first-round draft picks to the current team.
Other than the franchise tag, teams may also utilize the transition tag. The transition tag is another one-year deal worth the average of the top 10 salaries at that player's position. Other teams may negotiate with that player, but the player's team can match the offer. If they decline to match, there is no "reward" like with the non-exclusive franchise tag.
The Colts have a dozen options to use a tag on this year, although they are not expected to use one. Those 12 unrestricted free agents are as follows:
Cornerback Pierre Desir, safety Clayton Geathers, linebacker Najee Goode, wide receiver Ryan Grant, defensive end Geneo Grissom, tight end Ryan Hewitt, defensive lineman Margus Hunt, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman, safety Mike Mitchell, offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb, safety J.J. Wilcox and defensive tackle Al Woods.
The last time the Colts used a tag was 2013 when they placed it on punter Pat McAfee. In the last 15 years, they have also used it on quarterback Peyton Manning (2011), tight end Dallas Clark (2008), defensive end Dwight Freeney (2007) and running back Edgerrin James (2005).
There have also been a few instances in which the Colts initially placed the tag on a player but then got a long-term deal done before the deadline, rescinding the tag designation.
Teams have two weeks from today — Tuesday, Feb. 19 until 3:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 5 — to use their tag designations.
If a player is tagged, then the two sides have until 3:59 p.m. ET on Monday, July 15, to finalize a multi-year contract. Otherwise, the player must play under the tag for that season.