When is the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag?

Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

It's unlikely you will see the Pittsburgh Steelers use the franchise tag this offseason, but there are some high-profile names around the league who could see a tag coming their way soon. The Steelers have used the franchise tag in the past on players like Le'Veon Bell (twice), Bud Dupree, Jason Worilds, and LaMarr Woodley. However, it's not something a team can afford to do every year.

There are pros and cons to using the franchise tag. Though it ensures that a player will remain with the organization for at least one more season, the player who is tagged has a contract that is now fully guaranteed -- even in the event of a season-ending injury.

The franchise tag can also affect player relations. High-profile NFL players are looking for the security of a long-term deal, and they run the risk of suffering a major injury or not performing up to expectations while under the tag (which could hurt their future contract negotiations).

When must Steelers decide whether to use the franchise tag?

All 32 NFL teams have exactly a two-week window to decide whether or not to deploy the franchise tag on one of their players before they hit free agency. This window officially opens on Tuesday, February 20th, and it slams shut on Tuesday, March 5th.

If a decision is not made in this window, a player can no longer be tagged, and any player not under contract will enter free agency the following week. The new league year officially begins on March 13th when players can be signed and traded, but the legal tampering period opens two days earlier on March 11th.

Right now, all of the best and most important players on the Steelers' roster are still under contract, so this will not come into effect this year for Pittsburgh. Other teams cannot say the same. As they desperately attempt to avoid some of their best players hitting an open free-agent market, some organizations will be forced to implement the franchise tag in 2024. Here's what you need to know.

Which NFL players are franchise tag candidates in 2024?

If you look around the league, there are a handful of players who could receive the franchise tag during the two-week window this offseason. These are players who are considered among the top talents on their respective teams but are no longer under contract. Teams may be forced to use the franchise tag to ensure that they do not leave during the 2024 free agency period.

  • Chris Jones, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Josh Allen, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Brian Burns, EDGE, Carolina Panthers
  • Jaylon Johnson, CB, Chicago Bears
  • Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders

Oftentimes, to get to this point means that contract negotiations between both parties were too far apart. The aforementioned players could bet on themselves and other teams could bid for their services in free agency... unless, of course, a team uses a franchise tag.

It's unlikely that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be able to clear up enough salary space or would be willing to spend big enough to bring one of these players to town, but NFL teams must soon make a decision on whether or not to use the franchise tag. If they do, some of the top projected free agents this year will not hit the market during the 2024 offseason.

More Steelers news and analysis