2024 NFL franchise tag tracker: Nine players franchise-tagged on final day

Before NFL free agency begins, teams are allowed to apply franchise tags to players from Feb. 20 through Tuesday to give them a sense of what they need to do before the league year starts March 13.

What is the franchise tag? It is a designation teams can apply to a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and it binds the player to the team for one season. Franchise tag figures are based on the top five salaries at each position. The NFL has told its 32 teams that the 2024 salary cap will be a record $255.4 million, up from $224.8 million last year.

Last season, only six players were franchise-tagged. Among them was Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2023 NFL MVP. Here's a look at players who have been tagged, the reasons they were and the tag figure:

Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts used the franchise tag on Pittman to keep him with the team in 2024.

Franchise tag salary: $21.8 million

Career highlights: Pittman has averaged 99 receptions and 1,053 receiving yards over the past three seasons despite a parade of different starting quarterbacks. Pittman's 109 receptions in 2023 were the fifth most by a Colts player in franchise history and the most since Reggie Wayne's 111 in 2010.

Why he was tagged: The Colts like some of their young receiving talent -- particularly slot Josh Downs -- but Pittman is too big a part of the Colts' offense to risk losing him. The sides were discussing an extension and had made progress before the franchise tag deadline. But the Colts never truly entertained the idea of letting Pittman hit the open market -- something he had expressed an interest in doing.

What he brings: Pittman is not only the Colts' most productive receiver, he's also their toughest. His willingness to do the dirty work, like block and run routes in traffic, accentuate his more standard contributions as a receiver. Pittman's clutch play in clutch situations is also notable, like his 81% catch rate on third downs. -- Stephen Holder

Kyle Dugger, S, New England Patriots

The Patriots are assigning the transition tag on Dugger, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on Tuesday.

Transition tag salary: $13.8 million

Career highlights: Dugger has played 61 regular-season games (52 starts), and in 2022 became the first Patriots defender since 1970 to score three touchdowns in a season.

Why he was tagged: The Patriots could have placed the franchise tag on Dugger, but that would have been $17.1 million and made him the fourth-highest paid safety in the NFL in terms of average per year. But they instead chose the lower-priced transition tag -- based on the average of the top 10 salaries at the position. In doing so, the Patriots can still match another team's offer to Dugger, but they would not receive any compensation if they elect not to match it. Dugger played a team-high 98% of the defensive snaps last year and first-year head coach Jerod Mayo called him a core player the Patriots wanted to retain.

What he brings: Dugger is one of the hardest hitting defenders on the team, and in 2023, he was utilized further away from the line of scrimmage to help fill the void created by the retirement of longtime safety/centerfielder Devin McCourty -- which is versatility the coaching staff values. -- Mike Reiss

Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tagging Winfield will serve as a placeholder, guaranteeing he'll be in Tampa for the next year while they try to work out a deal.

Franchise tag salary: $17.1 Million

Career highlights: Despite no formal rookie offseason program because of COVID-19, Winfield played an integral part in the Bucs' Super Bowl LV win as a rookie. He was named a Pro Bowler in 2021 and a First-Team All-Pro in 2023. He also tied for the league lead in forced fumbles (six) and fumble recoveries (four) in 2023.

Why he was tagged: The Bucs see Winfield as one of the cornerstone pieces of their defense, and possibly their best player. Coach Todd Bowles said Winfield's 2023 season was "one of the best seasons I've seen a safety have." The goal is a long-term deal that will likely reset the safety market, and both sides are working towards making that happen. But for now, this will serve as a placeholder, guaranteeing he'll be in Tampa for the next year.

What he brings: Winfield brings a ton of versatility. He can line up at strong safety, free safety and nickelback. He can blitz off the edge, he can cover, he can stop the run and he's got a knack for stripping the ball and recovering it. He also brings outstanding practice habits, and in 2023, he stepped up even more as a vocal leader, which the coaching staff was extremely complimentary of. -- Jenna Laine

Jaylon Johnson, CB, Chicago Bears

The Bears and Johnson have been going back and forth for months over a contract extension and weren't able to agree to terms ahead of the franchise tag deadline. General manager Ryan Poles spoke confidently at the combine of the offer that had been extended to Johnson, which he said contained "strong" cash flows and guarantees and would allow the cornerback to hit free agency again in several years. Chicago's goal was to avoid using the franchise tag on Johnson, but this buys the team time to work out a long-term deal in the coming weeks or months before the July 15 deadline.

Franchise tag salary: $19.8 million

Career highlights: Johnson had his best season in a contract year as he was named second-team All-Pro and earned Pro Bowl honors. He had a career-high four interceptions (including a pick-six), 10 passes defended, one forced fumble and 36 tackles in 2023 and allowed a total of 195 yards and a 31.0 passer rating when targeted.

Why he was tagged: Johnson is not only the best cornerback on the Bears, he's one of the top at his position league-wide. In January, Poles foreshadowed that there was no way Johnson was hitting free agency -- "he isn't going anywhere" -- whether the cornerback signed an extension with the Bears this offseason or opts to play on the franchise tag.

What he brings: When Johnson said he feels like he deserves to be the highest paid cornerback in the league, he spoke with merit. The Bears finished the 2023 season tied for the most interceptions (22), which is a credit to the improved play of a secondary led by the former second-round pick. Johnson is a cornerstone of the Bears defense and puts Chicago in position to continue the success it found at taking the ball away next season. -- Courtney Cronin

Josh Allen, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars plan to place the tag on Allen as a placeholder to potentially reach a deal this offseason, sources told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

Franchise tag salary: $22.748 million

Career highlights: Allen, whom the Jaguars selected No. 7 overall in 2019, is coming off his best season yet -- with a single-season franchise-record 17.5 sacks that ranked second in the NFL. Over the past three seasons, Allen ranks sixth in pressures (228) and is tied for 10th in sacks (32). Allen's career 45 sacks are second on the Jaguars' all-time list, trailing Tony Brackens by 10.

Why he was tagged: The Jaguars don't want Allen to hit free agency because they'll lose control of where he'll play. He's one of the most sought-after defensive players this cycle and would likely get a huge contract offer that the Jaguars couldn't -- or wouldn't be willing to -- match. Using the tag ensures the Jaguars some additional time to try and get a contract extension done by the mid-July deadline.

What he brings: In addition to being one of the league's best pass rushers, Allen is good against the run and is one of the team's leaders in the locker room. He is one of the Jaguars' few core drafted players and has stated that he wants to remain in Jacksonville. There haven't been many recent Jaguars first-round picks that have felt that way. -- Michael DiRocco

Justin Madubuike, DT, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are looking to sign Madubuike to a long-term extension.

Franchise tag salary: $22.102 million

Career highlights: Madubuike's 13 sacks last season were a career high and ranked ninth. His streak of 11 straight games with at least a half-sack last season is tied for the longest in a single-season. He was named second-team All-Pro and was invited to his first Pro Bowl after shattering his career highs with 56 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 33 quarterback hits.

Why he was tagged: The Ravens weren't going to let their 26-year-old sacks leader from last season head elsewhere in free agency. Baltimore has typically used the tag to buy time to get a new deal completed. Six of the previous eight players tagged by the Ravens have eventually signed long-term contracts with the team, including quarterback Lamar Jackson last year. But this wasn't an easy move for Baltimore. The Ravens need to create $10 million in salary cap space by March 13.

What he brings: A defensive anchor up front. The Ravens have All-Pro foundational pieces in the middle of the defense with Roquan Smith and in the secondary with Kyle Hamilton. Madubuike is that same type of force on the defensive line. His 33 quarterback hits were 14 more than any other Ravens player. Baltimore hasn't had this type of pass rush on the interior since Haloti Ngata, who is the only other defensive tackle to get the franchise tag from the Ravens. -- Jamison Hensley

Brian Burns, OLB, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers tagged Burns with the hope of signing him to a long-term contract.

Franchise tag salary: $24 million

Career highlights: Burns has been a sack machine since the Panthers made him the No. 16 pick of the 2019 draft out of Florida State. He had 7.5 sacks as a rookie despite starting only five games and a career-high 12.5 in 2022 -- including two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass deflection against the Denver Broncos in Week 12 to earn NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2021 and 2022.

Why he was tagged: The Panthers have been trying for a year to sign Burns to a long-term deal, but he is asking for an average of $30 million a year, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. Talks broke off in September, and despite his sacks dropping to eight this past season, Burns still wants to be paid among the top edge rushers. Carolina still wants to lock the 25-year-old down for the long term, and the tag gives them time to continue negotiations.

What he brings: Beyond sacks, leadership. He has been a leader in the locker room the past three seasons, and the Panthers want him to be the foundation of their 3-4 defense for years to come. They thought so much of him in 2022 that then-GM Scott Fitterer turned down a trade offer for Burns that would have of sent Carolina two first-round picks from the Rams. New GM Dan Morgan said he wants to build Carolina around "dawgs,'' and Burns exemplifies that. -- David Newton

L'Jarius Sneed, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs tagged Sneed with the idea of either signing him to a long-term contract or trading him and receiving compensation from another team.

Franchise tag salary: $19.802 million

Career highlights: Sneed exceeded the Chiefs' hopes for him when they drafted him in the fourth round in 2020. He was a part-time starter as a rookie but has been a full-time starter since. He shadowed the opponents' top wide receiver for much of the 2023 season with excellent results. He didn't allow a touchdown pass as the nearest defender in coverage in the regular season. His signature play was a forced fumble in the AFC Championship Game as Baltimore's Zay Flowers was about to score a touchdown.

Why he was tagged: The Chiefs weren't comfortable with the idea of Sneed leaving without them getting anything in return. They had prepared for his departure in recent seasons by drafting four cornerbacks two years ago, including 2023 All-Pro Trent McDuffie, and one more last season. Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson, fourth- and seventh-round picks in 2022, respectively, have a lot of qualities the Chiefs like in their cornerbacks. Each has made plays for the Chiefs over the past two seasons. Williams, in particular, could be ready for a starting job if Sneed leaves.

What he brings: Sneed is a complete player and in many ways the perfect cornerback for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system. He is versatile, as he is able to play outside coverage or in the slot. He is also aggressive as a run defender and is a strong tackler. -- Adam Teicher

Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

The two sides were unable to reach a long-term extension before the start of last season, and the tag designation was always the likely outcome for the 2024 season, per a source familiar with the situation. Tagging Higgins allows Cincinnati to keep the core nucleus of quarterback Joe Burrow, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and Higgins together for at least one more season.

Franchise tag salary: $21.816 million

Career highlights: Higgins led the Bengals in receiving in Super Bowl LVI with four receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He had back-to-back seasons of 74 receptions and more than 1,000 receiving yards before dealing with injuries last year and being held to 12 games and 656 yards. Despite the injuries, he still finished second on the Bengals with five receiving touchdowns.

Why he was tagged: Higgins, a second-round pick in 2020, has been a pivotal part of Cincinnati's offensive overhaul. He arrived the same year as Burrow and has been one of the team's go-to receiving options.

What he brings: Higgins' 6-foot-4 frame and catch radius make him a passing option in virtually any situation. But throughout his time in the league, he has continued to develop as a route runner and has earned the trust of Burrow, coach Zac Taylor and the rest of the staff. -- Ben Baby