Tuesday, February 23 marks the opening of the franchise tag window in the NFL.
Teams must make a decision on whether or not to use the franchise tag on players between Feb. 23 and March 9. Teams can only use the tag on one of their players.
The Lions potentially have two candidates for the tag: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay and defensive end Romeo Okwara.
The tag comes in two forms – exclusive and non-exclusive. The latter is more commonly used. It's a one-year tender at the average of the top five salaries at that player's position over the last five years, or 120 percent of the player's current salary, whichever is greater. Players are allowed to negotiate with other teams under this tag, but the Lions would have the right to match any offer, and if not, receive compensation in the form of two first-round picks, making it pretty rare that a player signs with another team. The exclusive tag is similar, only the player cannot negotiate with another team.
There's also the transition tag, which is a one-year tender for the average of the top 10 salaries at the player's position. Players can negotiate with other teams and the Lions can match any offer.
If a player is tagged, the team and the player can still work out a long-term deal up until July 15. After that, the player has to play under the tag and can't negotiate a long-term deal until after the season.
Golladay, 27, is a good candidate for the tag in Detroit because he's not only the team's best receiver, but the Lions currently have only two players under contract at the position. Golladay is coming off a disappointing season in which he battled injury and missed 11 games. Golladay was a Pro Bowler in 2019 after leading the league in touchdown receptions (11). He recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2018 and 2019.
Okwara, 25, is headed toward unrestricted free agency coming off his best season as a professional in 2020. He led the Lions with 10.0 sacks – a career high. He was also top 10 in the league among defensive ends with 11 tackles for loss. Okwara was one of just four players in the NFL to record at least 10.0 sacks, 10.0 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The other three were Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett and Za'Darius Smith.
It will be interesting to see if new Lions general manager Brad Holmes decides to use the franchise tag in his first offseason re-tooling Detroit's roster. The Lions last used the franchise tag in 2018 on defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
One other option to consider is Detroit could use the tag and then look to trade the tagged player for more draft assets. There are a lot of possibilities to consider.