It’s tagging season in the NFL. Starting next week, franchises will be able to apply the use of a tag—either franchise or transition—on a particular player who is otherwise scheduled to hit the open market in order to maintain control of that player for another season. For the first time in a few years, the Kansas City Chiefs are unlikely to utilize the tag as they face an offseason without a true impact player slated to leave.
Certainly the Chiefs are going to experience significant player turnover in the 2021 offseason given that 20-plus players are scheduled for free agency of one type or another (unrestricted, restricted or exclusive rights). However, this year’s crop is more quantity than quality. That’s not intended as a slight on the players ready to hit the market. Instead, it’s simply the reality that the Chiefs aren’t on the verge of potentially losing an All-Pro talent.
Beginning on February 23, teams will be given a 15-day period within which they can officially designate a player with the franchise tag or a transition tag. A franchise tag pays a player approximately the average salary of the top five players at his position, while the transition tag is an average of the top 10. As for the franchise tag, it comes with two versions—exclusive or non-exclusive—which allows the franchise to either retain complete control (exclusive) for another season or gives them the right of first refusal (non-exclusive) if that player signs an offer sheet with another team. You can read more of the ins and outs about the tag process here.
Last season, the Chiefs used the franchise tag on Chris Jones in order to keep the defensive tackle from hitting free agency. Jones was temporarily given a hefty single-season salary at the time, but he eventually landed the long-term security he desired with a four-year extension granted him during the summer. The year before that, the Chiefs applied the franchise tag on pass rusher Dee Ford before ultimately trading him to the San Francisco 49ers—again as a way to maintain control over the player without losing him for nothing on the open market.
In previous season, the Chiefs have utilized the tag on the likes of safety Eric Berry and defensive end Jared Allen, but in an offseason like this one, it makes zero sense for the Chiefs to apply a tag of any kind. The team is in no financial position to guarantee someone such a mammoth contract with so many other high-dollar players already on the roster. In addition, there aren’t really any players who would fit that role as it is.
The Chiefs are likely going to watch several of their own sign with other teams, so it’s not that free agents-to-be won’t get any attention. However, there’s no impact player like a Jones or Ford or Berry who is going to hit the market. Sammy Watkins is likely the biggest name, but after another injury-plagued season, he won’t be breaking the bank like he did when arriving in Kansas City in the first place.