What is a franchise tag? Everything you need to know about how it works

Tee Higgins could be headed this route, whether he likes it or not.

Cincinnati Bengals, Tee Higgins
Cincinnati Bengals, Tee Higgins / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, we have come to know that the Cincinnati Bengals might have a plan in place for wide receiver Tee Higgins this offseason.

At the moment, Higgins is set to become an unrestricted free agent, meaning he could sign with another NFL team once the new league year officially opens on March 13.

However, The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr. believes the Bengals intend to use the franchise tag on Higgins, which would drastically change the receiver's free agent plans.

What is the franchise tag?

It's pretty simple. The franchise tag is a term used for the type of contract a team presents one of its players that would pay them the annual average of the top-five contracts at their said position. So, Higgins would be paid the average salary of the NFL's top-five wide receivers for 2024.

Does the franchise tag restrict a player from signing with another team?

Yes. The franchise tag means said player is restricted from signing a contract elsewhere. Higgins would be unable to sign a free agent deal with another team.

Does a franchise-tagged player have to play out the following season?

No. The player would not have to play that season. They don't have to sign the franchise tag, either. They could opt to hold out for hopes of a trade or a long-term deal. Typically, the deadline for players and teams to come to a long-term agreement, under these circumstances, is sometime in mid-July.

Does the franchise tag restrict a player from being traded?

No, as stated above, the player could hope to be traded rather than playing out the year on the franchise tag for their current team. In this case, the Bengals would have to be willing to trade Higgins on the franchise tag, and Higgins' new team would presumably work out a long-term contract with him.

What will the Bengals likely do with Higgins?

As we've stated, the assumption around Cincinnati's building is that the team will place the franchise tag on Higgins. However, it's still unknown whether or not the Bengals would decide to explore trade options. In the end, it could benefit Cincinnati to look at a trade. The possibility of paying both Higgins and Chase a top-five salary would seriously restrict the team financially, going forward.