IRVING, Texas– The NFL deadline for designating the franchise or transition tag in 2016 ended Tuesday, and as expected, the Cowboys did not use either on an upcoming free agent on their roster.
Last year, the team franchised wide receiver Dez Bryant and eventually signed him to a five-year, $70 million contract on July 15, the final day to negotiate a long-term deal before the end of football season.
The Cowboys have only placed the franchise tag on four players in franchise history: Flozell Adams (2002), Ken Hamlin (2008), Anthony Spencer (2012, 2013) and Bryant (2015).
The franchise tag is a one-year guaranteed contract worth the average of the league's top five salaries at a position. The exclusive tag gives a team exclusive negotiating rights with the player. Under the non-exclusive tag, the player can negotiate elsewhere but the team can match any offer or receive two first-round picks as compensation. Under the transition tag, a team can match any offer but would not receive compensation if its player signed elsewhere.
Bryant missed virtually the entire offseason program last year while both sides negotiated his contract. Had a long-term deal not been reached, his one-year franchise tag salary in 2015 would have been $12.8 million.
Such a scenario was never expected for any of the Cowboys' upcoming free agents this offseason. Here is the list of players currently set to be free agents on March 9, the start of the new league year:
Unrestricted: Mackenzy Bernadeau, Charles Brown, Matt Cassel, Morris Claiborne, Jack Crawford, Tyler Clutts, Lance Dunbar, James Hanna, Greg Hardy, Nick Hayden, Rolando McClain, Danny McCray, Jeremy Mincey, Rodney Smith, Josh Thomas, Robert Turbin, Casey Walker, Kyle Wilber
Restricted: Jeff Heath, Ronald Leary