The 5 Highest Paid NFL Franchise Tag Players in 2020

Written by: Mike Lukas
Updated October 14, 2022
9 min read

For an NFL star playmaker, what is (relatively) worse than a multi-year contract but a whole lot better than not being paid to play pro football at all?

It’s the designation known as the Franchise Tag, and every NFL team gets to use (or not use) one of them each offseason on a star player in lieu of working out a long term contract with them, a lucrative deal which may (or may not) be negotiated in the future.

Here we take a quick look at the five highest-paid NFL players currently under the franchise tag, including what they will be paid for the upcoming 2020 season and whether they stand to receive a long-term contract from their team.

9 Runners-Up: Next Highest-Paid 2020 NFL Franchise Tag Players

These nine NFL athletes had the franchise tag designation placed on them for the 2020 season, but they did not make our top five best-paid list.

As you can see, however, none of these men are going to go broke this year, with the least valuable one-year contract offered still worth well over $10 million.

Each of these men will have to negotiate a contract at the end of (or during) the 2020 season or face the franchise tag once again.

  1. Bud Dupree, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tag Price: $15.8 million
  2. Matt Judon, OLB, Baltimore Ravens, Tag Price: $15.8 million
  3. Shaq Barrett, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tag Price: $15.8 million
  4. Joe Thuney, G, New England Patriots, Tag Price: $14.8 million
  5. Brandon Scherff, G, Washington Redskins, Tag Price: $14.8 million
  6. Justin Simmons, S, Denver Broncos, Tag Price: $11.4 million
  7. Anthony Harris, S, Minnesota Vikings, Tag Price: $11.4 million
  8. Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers, Tag price: $10.6 million
  9. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans, Tag price: $10.3 million

The 5 Highest Paid NFL Franchise Tag Players in 2020

Each of these next five players will be heavily compensated for their 2020 NFL season, but none of them have been able to score a long-term deal with their current teams just yet.

Each will do their best to have the type of production during the season that gives their agent the ability to negotiate a better contract.

The worst thing that could happen to any of these men is to get hurt and end their season prematurely since that would make dealing on their behalf more difficult.

#5) Chris Jones

Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Position: Defensive tackle

Age: 25

Years Pro: 4

Tag price: $16.1 million

Anyone who saw Super Bowl LIV recognizes the name Chris Jones, the energetic defensive player who chased around 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the entire game, giving him lots of nerve-wracking moments during all four quarters.

The Chiefs did not want to lose a high-level interior pass rusher like Jones, especially given that he is not even 26-years old yet in a position that requires a younger engine, so they placed the franchise tag on him.

At the end of the 2020 season, it will be up to Kansas City to figure out how to negotiate a long term deal with their star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, but they might also want to leave a little money in the kitty to keep a valuable stud like Jones around, too.

#4) Leonard Williams

Team: New York Giants

Position: Defensive tackle

Age: 25

Years Pro: 4

Tag price: $16.1 million

The 6’5”, 302-pound Williams played the first half of last season for the Jets and the second half for the Giants, and apparently in those eight games, Giants general manager David Gettleman liked what he saw.

After registering half a sack, 11 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and 20 total tackles in 2019, Williams proved his value enough to his new team to score a franchise tag for 2020 worth over $16 million.

This will most likely be a prove-it year for Williams, who could end up with either a huge deal or nothing at the end of it, which will make Gettleman look like either a total genius or fool, depending on how well the giant defensive tackle performs.

#3) Yannick Ngakoue

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Position: Defensive end

Age: 25

Years Pro: 4

Tag price: $17.8 million

Considering the amount of production that defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has been responsible for in his four years with the Jaguars – 37.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits, 14 forced fumbles, and 122 total tackles – it’s no wonder the team placed the franchise tag on him this offseason.

What makes the situation awkward and difficult to manage is the fact that Ngakoue has made it perfectly clear that he does not want a long-term contract with the team and would prefer to continue his NFL career elsewhere.

The best bet for the Jaguars and their newly re-staffed front office is to let Ngakoue have another incredible season for them and then, if he’s still unhappy, deal him to another team for either future draft picks or another young prospect who’d be a better (and happier) fit.

#2) A.J. Green

Team: Cincinnati Bengals

Position: Wide receiver

Age: 31

Years Pro: 8

Tag price: $17.9 million

Unfortunately for the Bengals and for wide receiver A.J. Green, the talented wide receiver did not play in 2019 due to a serious ankle injury and has indicated that he would prefer to move on to another team.

Except that was before Cincy played horribly enough without him to ‘earn’ the number one overall draft pick, which they used to snag arguably the best quarterback in the draft, Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow of the National Champion LSU Tigers.

That alone could be enough to cause Green to want to stay with the Bengals, especially if he is able to stay healthy in 2020 and develop a productive relationship with the young star quarterback.

#1) Dak Prescott

Team: Dallas Cowboys

Position: Quarterback

Age: 26

Years Pro: 4

Tag price: $31.5 million

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has found himself in a bit of a financial predicament after taking care of his star running back, Zeke Elliott, and his star wide receiver, Amari Cooper, with lucrative long-term contracts in the last couple of years.

That’s because now it’s come time to pay his exceptional young quarterback, the 26-year-old Dak Prescott, who just had himself a fantastic 2019, completing 388-of-596 for 4,900+ total yards and 30 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, numbers that easily deserve a long-term contract for the man.

Tough to feel sorry for a guy who’ll make $31.5 million this year, but unless the Cowboys can figure out how to sign Prescott for what he’s worth, another franchise tag next season will cost them almost $40 million, so it would behoove Jones to crunch the long-term numbers as soon as possible.

What Exactly Is the NFL Franchise Tag?

When an NFL player is about to become an unrestricted free agent, the team he plays for can designate him with the franchise tag, which binds the player to the team for a year.

This tag allows a team’s general manager to retain valuable free agent talent while searching elsewhere, including the draft and free agency, with the ultimate goal of staying under the team’s total salary cap.

Of course, certain conditions must be met in order for the tag to be placed, including a certain amount of compensation.

How Much Is a Franchise-Tagged Player Paid for the Season?

There are three types of franchise tag designations that a team can place on a player – they are exclusive rights, non-exclusive rights, and transitional tag.

Each of these receives a different type of deal.

Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag

When a team designates a player with an exclusive rights franchise tag, the player cannot negotiate with other NFL teams, whereas the original team can engage in trade talks with regards to that athlete.

The player must be offered a one-year contract at a value that equals no less than an average of the top five salaries at the player’s position or 120% of the players’ previous year’s salary, whichever is more.

The Non-Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag

When a team designates a player with a non-exclusive rights franchise tag, he can negotiate with other teams, but the original team must have the right to match the offer.

In the meantime, the team must offer the player a one-year contract worth no less than the average of the top five cap hits at the player’s position for the previous five years applied to the current salary cap, or 120 percent of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater.

Transitional Franchise Tag

When a team is under the salary cap, it can designate one additional player as what is known as a “transitional tag.”

This designation gives the football team a first refusal right to match any other club’s offer within the next seven days, though if they do not match, they get zero compensation.

In terms of money, a transitional tagged player must be offered a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the prior season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s prior year’s salary, whichever is greater.

Can a Team Place a Franchise Tag on a Player in Consecutive Seasons?

Yes, but it is going to cost them some big money to do that.

For example, when a team puts a franchise tag on a player two years in a row, it must continue to pay 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary.

A franchise tag for three years in a row would increase that to 144 percent, or an average of the top five salaries at the highest-paid position, which is typically the quarterback.

Why Do Players Dislike the Franchise Tag?

Most players who get a franchise tag placed on them are considered valuable, and a valuable player wants the financial security that comes with a long-term contract.

With a franchise tag placed on them, a player must wait another year for their agent to negotiate a more desirable deal.

In that time, a lot can happen to lessen the player’s value, like an off season or worse, a serious injury, both of which could cause the athlete’s financial worth to drop.

Why Do Club Owners Like the Franchise Tag?

Football front offices like the franchise tag because it allows them to hang on to a valuable player for another season without having to negotiate a long-term contract right away.

This is beneficial to the team if they are close to going over salary cap or if they have just negotiated with other high-value players for long-term deals.

Placing a franchise tag on a player is basically a stall tactic to either find another player who can fill their spot or wait until a future time to negotiate when the salary cap isn’t as tight.

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Mike Lukas

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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager.
Nationality: American
Education: N/A
Favourite Sportsbook: bet365 Sportsbook
Favourite Casino: Caesars Palace Casino
23 years
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