How the Availability of the Franchise and Transition Tags Might Affect the Giants

Patricia Traina

In the past, teams could use one of the franchises or transition tags on a player. This year, they can use both tags simultaneously on different players.

While that rule would benefit a team like the Giants who even with the projected money they’ll need to put aside for the final league year under the current CBA, it would be a potentially costly proposition.

Before getting into the details, let’s review what each tag is and what it means, starting with the transition tag.

The transition tag guarantees the player a one-year base salary equivalent to the average of the top-10 highest-paid players at his position. A transition tagged player may still go out and solicit offers from other teams, but if he signs an offer sheet and his original team doesn’t match it, the lost player does not count toward the comp pick formula the following year.

Sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Giants news, notes, and more delivered to your inbox!

The franchise tag is a little more restrictive and includes two subcategories: the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags.

An exclusive franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position in the current year, or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever number is higher. An exclusive franchise player cannot negotiate with any other teams.

A non-exclusive franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for t no less than the average of the top-five salaries at the player’s position over the last five years, or 120 percent of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater.

A non-exclusive franchise tag player can negotiate with other teams. If he signs an offer sheet with another team, the original team has the right to match the offer; if it doesn’t, then it receives two first-round picks as compensation.

How This Rule Might Affect the Giants

The Giants have made it known that they’d like to retain defensive tackle Leonard Williams. If they can’t get a deal done before the start of free agency, Williams would almost certainly be a candidate for one of the tags.

There are two questions if Williams is a candidate for a tag. The first is which of the two tags do they use? The second is do they classify him as a defensive tackle or a defensive end, both positions having different costs, according to the estimates provided by Over the Cap.

The answer to the second question is that the player receives the tag corresponding to whatever position he took the majority of his snaps.

The answer to the first question will depend on what kind of market demand there is for Williams.

If we go back to the trade deadline, it was reported by The Athletic - New York that the Giants were the only team realistically in on Williams, likely because other teams weren’t willing to give up assets given Williams’ lack of numbers.

However, it’s fair to wonder if had teams been able to compete for Williams as a free agent if he might have had more of a market given that he’s only 25 years old and some might argue--shortsightedly at that--that Williams potentially brings more to the table than any third-round pick (the projected compensation for Williams if certain conditions are met).

Then there is the question as to whether there will even be comp picks in the next CBA. While it’s hard to imagine this provision disappearing int he next CBA, until such time when a new agreement is reached, it would be unwise to make long-term plans based on assumptions of what the next CBA will and won’t have.

Then there is the matter of Markus Golden, an outside linebacker who became the first Giant defender to record double-digit sacks since Jason Pierre-Paul in 2014 and the first Giants linebacker to have that kind of production since Lawrence Taylor.

Pass rushers are at a premium in this league, and with the Giants likely not in a position to get Ohio State edge Chase Young, it’s fair to wonder if the 28-year-old Golden solidified his chances of returning to the Giants on a longer-term deal.

RELATED: How the Absence of the June 1 Designation Might Affect the Giants' Upcoming Salary Cap Decisions

Assuming, then, that Williams and Golden are the two tag-worthy Giants, who then gets what?

I’d consider the linebacker franchise tag for Golden, which carries a projected $16,266 million price tag that would shrink upon him signing a new deal. (Spotrac has a projected market value for Golden, for those interested.)

Golden, who per Pro Football Focus had a better pass-rush productivity rate (8.0) than Williams (5.8), also had a higher run-stop percentage (8.0 to 7.0).

Whereas Williams’ presence might have opened things up for others on the defense, an argument can be made that Williams has yet to generate the type of production that takes over a game and hence is worth premium dollars.

The problem with using both tags as described is that it would eat up an estimated $28.587 million of the Giants 2020 cap space.

Between needing to put aside money for the draft class and in holding aside about $20 million, a number general manager Dave Gettleman mentioned, that wouldn’t leave the Giants with much money in free agency unless they were to clear more space (which they likely will).

The best-case scenario for the Giants, if they indeed want both Williams and Golden back, would be to get each man extended before the start of free agency and not have to worry about using one or both of the available--and costly--stalling mechanisms known as the tags.

Get in on our Friday Fan Day mailbag. Send your questions to