With the CBA set to expire on March 4 and new free agent rules potentially coming into effect once a deal is reached, this is likely a moot point, but Tom Kowalski reports that the Lions are not going to use their franchise or transition tag this offseason.
If the Lions slapped the franchise tag on one of their players becoming a free agent, it would essentially keep his rights with them for at least another year. The franchise tag is usually used with big-name, talented players, because any player that has it applied to him receives a one-year contract offer worth the average of the top five salaries at his position. This means that franchising a defensive end, for example, would give the player a salary of more than $12 million.
The transition tag gives teams the ability to match any offer a player receives from other teams. One of the issues with the transition tag is that "poison pills" can be included in contract offers, preventing the team that applied the transition tag from logistically being able to match the offer. Nate Burleson was involved in a situation like this when he signed with Seattle. The Seahawks included a clause that his entire $49 million contract would be guaranteed if he played five or more games in the state of Minnesota. Had the Vikings matched that offer, they would have basically guaranteed the contract right then and there, as staying healthy would mean Burleson would play in at least five home games.
Because the transition tag is really a way of screwing the system, it's very possible it will be eliminated in the new CBA. Part of why the Seahawks used the "poison pills" to sign Burleson was because the Vikings did the same thing to land Steve Hutchinson, so it's risky to even apply the transition tag in the first place. This is why the franchise tag is so much more commonly used, not that this matters to the Lions anyway. None of their players that are set to become free agents (list here) are worth using either of the tags on, which is why they aren't planning on using them. Besides, why bother applying the tags when the rules of free agency are likely to change when a new CBA is in place?