Bears Insider

How franchise tag window could impact Bears' free-agent plans

Bears Insider
Daron Payne

Tuesday marks the first official checkpoint of the 2023 NFL offseason. Starting at 4 p.m. ET, teams can start assigning either the franchise or transition tag, allowing teams to stop one pending free agent from leaving. The window to tag runs through March 7.

Teams can either place the "exclusive" franchise tag or the "non-exclusive" franchise tag on a player. The exclusive tag is a one-year offer that is the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position in that current year or 120 percent of the player’s previous salary if that number is higher. It also makes it so the player can't negotiate with other clubs. The non-exclusive tag allows a player to negotiate with other teams while giving the club that tagged him the right to match the offer or refuse and get two first-round picks as compensation. The compensation for the non-exclusive tag is the average of the top five salaries at that player's position for the last five years or 120 percent of the player's previous salary.

Teams can also place the transition tag on a player. That averages the top 10 salaries at the player's position. The tagging team can match an offer but gets no compensation if it refuses.

The Bears enter the offseason with almost $100 million in salary cap space and plan to add much-needed talent in free agency. However, several of the Bears' expected top free-agent targets are candidates to be tagged, which could alter their offseason plan and the level of excitement for general manager Ryan Poles' expected moves.


Here are the tag amounts for each position:

QB: $32.4 million
RB: $10.1 million
WR: $19.7 million
TE: $11.3
OL: $18.2
DE: $19.7
DT: $18.9
LB: $20.9
CB: $18.1
S: $14.4
K/P: $5.3

Below is a list of players who could receive one of the tags and how it could impact the Bears' free-agency plan.

Offensive line

Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown told USA TODAY that he expects to be back in Kansas City protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes' blindside. The Chiefs tagged Brown last offseason, so another tag would see him get a $20 million paycheck for 2023. He's well worth the price as the Chiefs try to run it back.

Kaleb McGary

The Falcons have an interesting calculus when it comes to McGary.

Atlanta elected not to pick up McGary's fifth-year option last offseason, and he responded by turning in a career year in 2022. McGary finished the season as ProFootballFocus' highest-graded right tackle. The Falcons have $56.5 million in salary cap space this offseason, but tagging McGary at left tackle money ($18.2 million) would bring it down to $36.25 million.

Is that something the rebuilding Falcons want to do for a player they didn't think was in their future one year ago? Probably not.

Mike McGlinchey

It's unlikely the 49ers tag McGlinchey. As of Tuesday, the 49ers only have $8 million in salary cap space available this offseason. The 49ers would need to pull off some impressive cap mechanics to make it work.

Ben Powers

The Ravens likely will use their franchise tag on quarterback Lamar Jackson, so Powers will probably hit the market and be available for a projected $10 million AAV.

Summary: With Brown likely to get tagged, McGlinchey will likely end up being the Bears' best tackle option on the free-agent market, with McGary and Jawaan Taylor serving as good backup options.

Powers is far and away the best guard in a thin free-agent class. The Bears are expected to prioritize the offensive line in free agency, but the class might end up being thinner than expected.

Defensive line

Daron Payne: Entering the 2022 season, it looked like the Commanders would let Payne walk this offseason as they prepare to give out extensions to Montez Sweat and, eventually, Chase Young. But Payne responded with a career year, notching a team-best 11.5 sacks this past season. He's a prime candidate to be tagged at $18 million.

Dre'Mont Jones: Jones has the versatility to play outside or be the disruptive three-technique the Bears' defense desperately needs. After a 5-12 season, it's unlikely the Broncos tag Jones for $19.7 million.

RELATED: Bears might not get king's ransom for No. 1 pick, and that's OK

Summary: With Jones and Javon Hargrave hitting the market, the Bears should still be able to find a solid answer to the interior of their defensive line, even if Payne returns to Washington.


David Montgomery

Montgomery wants to be a Bear. Poles has been clear about how much he likes and respects Montgomery. But tagging Montgomery for $10.1 million will be too rich for a Bears team that needs to fill a ton of holes.

If the Bears and Montgomery can't find common ground, expect Chicago to look elsewhere to fill their running back hole.

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