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Whatever happened to the transition tag?


As we close in on the annual deadline for applying the franchise tag, many of you are asking why we never mention the transition tag.

OK, some of you. Actually, a few of you.

Maybe it was just one of you. And by “one of you” I technically mean me.

The transition tag has become forgotten in recent years because in recent years it largely has been unused. As of 2007, when the transition tag became fully guaranteed if/when signed by the player, most teams abandoned it.

Perhaps the most notorious use of the transition tag came in 2006, when the Seahawks applied it to All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson -- and the Vikings pounced on the opportunity to snare Hutchinson via a poison-pill offer sheet containing features that would have made the entire seven-year, $49 million deal fully guaranteed if matched by Seattle.

The tag gives only the right to match an offer from another team, with no compensation if the current team chooses not to keep the player. And the one-year financial commitment remains significant, coming from the average of the 10 highest-paid players at the position. (The franchise tag focuses only on the top five.) For most teams, the guaranteed nature of the transition tag as of 2007 was enough to push teams to simply use the franchise tag.

So while the transition tag remains available as an alternative to the franchise tag, it would be a surprise if any team uses it, now or in the future.