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NFL franchise tag window is now open—Here’s why the Lions are unlikely to use it

The NFL’s franchise tag window is now open but the Detroit Lions seem very unlikely to apply the tag to any of their unrestricted free agents.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Tuesday, the NFL checked off the first box on our important dates for the 2023 offseason calendar by opening up the window for teams to apply franchise tags to pending unrestricted free agents. The Detroit Lions have 18 players that are set to hit the unrestricted free agency market this March, but the odds are that general manager Brad Holmes won’t use the tag.

Let’s take a look at why.

For those not familiar with the franchise tag, it serves as a way for teams to retain contractual control of a high-level player for an additional season if the two sides are not able to reach a new contract when their current one is set to expire. Essentially, in concept, it allows teams to pay a player a competitive amount of money to extend their contract by one season in order to allow negotiations to continue.

To determine what a franchise tag will cost, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to average the contracts of the top five players at each position or calculate 120% of the player's current salary, with the tag equaling whichever of those amounts is higher.

Here are the costs to use a franchise tag at each position in 2023:

  • Quarterback: $32,416,000
  • Running back: $10,091,000
  • Wide receiver: $19,743,000
  • Tight end: $11,345,000
  • Offensive line: $18,244,000
  • Defensive tackle: $18,937,000
  • Defensive end: $19,727,000
  • Linebacker: $20,926,000
  • Cornerback: $18,140,000
  • Safety: $14,460,000
  • Special teams: $5,393,000

When ranking the Lions' pending unrestricted free agents, running back Jamaal Williams, wide receiver DJ Chark, defensive end John Cominsky, defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, and linebacker Alex Anzalone rounded out the top five. The 2023 franchise tag costs are significantly more than each of those players' current expiring deals.

Williams, the top priority in our rankings, previous contract cost the Lions $6 million over two years, while this year’s franchise tag for running backs is over $10 million for a single year. Chark’s one-year deal was worth $10 million, almost half of the current franchise tag at receiver. The numbers are even more dramatically skewed for Cominsky, Buggs, and Anzalone.

There may come a time when the Lions determine they may need to use the franchise tag to retain a player but it’s not likely to happen in 2023.

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