What is the NFL franchise tag and how might it affect Germaine Pratt?

Nov 6, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) reacts after
Nov 6, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) reacts after / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have a decision to make this offseason on Germaine Pratt. Will they let him walk? Will they re-sign him? Will they slap him with the franchise tag?

For those of you who might not be as familiar with the franchise tag, let's break that down.

What is the franchise tag?

"The franchise tag is a tool that NFL teams can use to ensure they retain an upcoming unrestricted free agent each season. Teams do not have to use the franchise tag, and they are only allowed to designate one player with the franchise tag per season. They must also decide whether to utilize the franchise or transition tag — which serves a similar purpose."

Ben Rolfe, Pro Football Network

"By utilizing the tag, teams give themselves an extra year of service time from whichever player they assign it to. Often, the franchise tag is used in the event that the team has not been able to agree to a contract extension with a player they are looking to retain. Once teams apply the tag, they then have a short window with which to agree to a contract extension. The deadline for that is usually in July, but once it passes, teams and players cannot continue negotiations until the following offseason."


I figured it'd be easier to quote Ben Rolfe of Pro Football Network's explanation of the franchise tag than to attempt to explain it myself.

The Bengals franchise tagged Jessie Bates last year and therefore had to pay him $12 million. Every position has a designated amount the player will be paid if they sign the tag. For linebackers this year, it's $20.9 million. Jay Morrison notes that only quarterbacks have a larger franchise tag number.

Will the Bengals apply the franchise tag to Germaine Pratt?

Pratt, a third-round pick in 2019, is coming off an impressive season with the Bengals and he's going to attract attention in free agency. That's assuming the Bengals let him reach free agency, though.

While Pratt was an awesome player in 2022, the Bengals shouldn't pay him nearly $21 million a year, which is what they'd be doing if they franchise-tagged him. PFF has him projected to earn $8.25 million per year, which is more realistic.

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Maybe the Bengals tag Pratt and then sign him to a deal later on but paying him $20.9 million would not be a wise business decision. If they tag him and can't work out a deal, then a trade would be next on the agenda.

What do you hope the Bengals do with Pratt in the offseason?