Dec 31, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (11) runs out of bounds as Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Brandon Facyson (31) rolls at his feet during a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

What to know as the NFL franchise tag window opens

Unavoidable and detested by most who are eligible, the NFL’s annual tag game begins Tuesday.

All 32 teams are allowed to play the not-so-popular franchise tag game, a roster-building accounting mechanism available to help those clubs retain free agents without the long-term demands and salary cap strain of a multi-year contract with numerous guaranteed elements.

Starting Tuesday and through March 5, teams can use the non-exclusive franchise tag — easily the most common — to promise a one-year salary for 2024 that is set using the value equal to the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position over the last five years.

If tagged with the non-exclusive marker, players who would otherwise be unrestricted free agents can still talk deals with other teams. However, the current team retains refusal rights — meaning it can match any offer a suitor proposes — or opt instead to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation if he signs with another club.

No outside negotiations are allowed for players who are hit with the exclusive franchise tag. That tag also raises the pay for the player in question to a one-year salary equal to the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year — as opposed to the past five years — or 120 percent of his prior year’s salary, whichever is greater.

A transition tag, which comes with a player salary equal to the average of the top five salaries at the position over the past 10 years, maintains refusal rights for the existing or current team. But if said team declines to match an offer sheet made to that player, they receive no compensation for losing him to a new team.

DEADLINES, ET CETERA
Teams can use the transition or franchise tags through 4:00 p.m. ET on March 5.

Any player tagged can negotiate toward a long-term contract until July 15.

Players are not required to sign a tender offer as a transition or franchise player and cannot be fined for not participating in offseason workouts.

Failure to sign the tender and report to the team for the regular season can disqualify that player from accruing a season of service and impact eligibility for free agency and other player benefits.

NUMBERS GAME
Contract figures reflecting the market value by position showed a stark decline for running backs last season, much to the dismay of tagged Giants running back Saquon Barkley and 2022 NFL rushing leader Josh Jacobs of the Raiders.

Below are the non-exclusive franchise tag values at every position for 2024:

Quarterback: $36,367,000
Running Back: $11,348,000
Linebacker: $22,794,000
Defensive Tackle: $20,986,000
Wide Receiver: $20,714,000
Defensive End: $20,247,000
Offensive Line: $19,925,000
Cornerback: $18,802,000
Safety: $16,258,000
Tight End: $12,151,000
Kicker/Punter: $5,682,000

WHO’S IT?
Here are five candidates to be tagged by their current NFL teams:

1. DE Brian Burns, Panthers
Contract talks went sideways last summer and Burns is on the record stating he wants to be the NFL’s highest-paid pass-rusher. Finding traction in that stratosphere might be challenging after an 8.0-sack season in 2023. With little draft capital, can the Panthers afford to watch him walk?

2. RB Josh Jacobs, Raiders
Backpedaling from the NFL rushing title to 805 yards in 2023 shifts leverage to the Raiders.

3. CB Jaylon Johnson, Bears
Johnson is among the top cover corners in the NFL and wants to be paid like one. The Bears might want to see it one more year before paying up. GM Ryan Pace tipped his hand here with the release of Cody Whitehair and Eddie Jackson.

4. DT Justin Madubuike, Ravens
Baltimore tagged, then re-signed, quarterback Lamar Jackson before he delivered his second MVP season in 2023. Madubuike had a breakout season with 13.0 sacks and 33 QB hits to continue his rise from third-round pick to second-team All-Pro. He’s just 26 years old.

5. WR Michael Pittman Jr, Colts
At $20.7 million for 2024, the Colts get to keep Pittman and pair him with 2023 draft pick Anthony Richardson at quarterback for a full test run. Pittman could be the most coveted free agent receiver available if he’s not tagged.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA;  General view of the Big 12 logo on the field at TDECU Stadium before the game between the Houston Cougars and the Texas Longhorns. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Expanded Big 12 to keep playing nine league games

The 16-team Big 12 Conference unveiled its 2024 football schedule on Tuesday.

Like in the Big Ten, each team will continue to play nine conference games. The Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference are moving to an eight-game format in 2024.

Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado joined the expanded Big 12 from the Pac-12 Conference, while Texas and Oklahoma left the Big 12 for the SEC. The Buffaloes previously competed in the Big 12 from 1996-2010.

The Big 12 season kicks off on Sept. 14 when UCF visits TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Big 12 announced in November that the schedule would prioritize geographical and historical rivalries. Kansas plays at Kansas State on Oct. 26, BYU will visit Utah on Nov. 9, Baylor will play at Houston on Nov. 23 and Arizona will host Arizona State on Nov. 30.

The Big 12 championship game is scheduled for Dec. 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

In a scheduling quirk, two contests involving new league members — Baylor at Utah (Sept. 7) and Arizona at Kansas State (weekend of Sept. 14) — are considered nonconference games because they were previously scheduled.

–Field Level Media

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) shakes hands with fans following the Packers victory over the Chicago Bears during their football game Sunday, January 7, 2024, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers defeated the Bears 17-9.

NFL announces 2024 home/away opponents

The NFL formally announced each team’s regular-season opponents for 2024 on Friday.

The schedule itself, with dates, times and television designations, won’t be revealed until the spring, but the league’s scheduling formula arranges which divisions will face off every season.

In addition to six games against a team’s own division (three home, three away), teams also face the four teams of another division within the conference and the four teams of a division from the opposite conference. Two intraconference opponents and one interconference foe based on last season’s standings round out a team’s 17-game slate.

In 2024, the AFC East will face the AFC South, and the AFC North will play the AFC West; the NFC East will meet the NFC South, and the NFC North will tangle with the NFC West.

In the interconference category, the AFC East will face the NFC West; the AFC North will meet the NFC East; the AFC South will be pitted against the NFC North; and the AFC West will see the NFC South on their schedules.

The so-called 17th games are going into their third year in the NFL’s scheduling formula. This year, the NFC teams will host each of these games, which are as follows:

–Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions
–Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers
–New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings
–New England Patriots at Chicago Bears
–Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
–Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints
–Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons
–Cincinnati Bengals at Carolina Panthers
–Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys
–Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles
–Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants
–Tennessee Titans at Washington Commanders
–Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers
–Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams
–Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
–Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay coaches against the New York Giants during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sean McVay ‘promises’ return to Rams in 2024

Retirement conversation with Sean McVay can be put on hold after the Rams’ head coach confirmed he will be on the Los Angeles sideline again next season.

At this time last year, McVay said he was wrestling with how long he would remain in the profession as he started a family. He and his wife welcomed their first child in October.

But with his Rams on the doorstep of the playoffs, and McVay seven wins from setting the team record for victories as head coach (John Robinson, 75), he doesn’t want to leave any doubt about his status for 2024.

“That I can promise you,” McVay told host J.B. Long when asked if there would be a “Coach McVay Show” next season.

McVay turns 38 later this month. He was hired in 2017, guiding the Rams to a Super Bowl LVI win while building a 69-45 regular-season record (7-3 postseason) for a total of 76 career wins.

In 2022, McVay and general manager Les Snead signed contract extensions that expire after the 2026 season.

With one more win this season, McVay will have the Rams (9-7) back in the playoffs and move ahead of Chuck Knox into sole possession of second on the Rams’ all-time wins list, which counts regular-season victories.

Knox’s record with the Rams was 69-48-1; Robinson was 75-68.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2023; Frankfurt, Germany; The NFL shield logo at midfield during an NFL International Series game at Deutsche Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: NFL nearing a vote on 2024 Brazil game

The NFL reportedly is nearing a vote on awarding a 2024 regular-season game to Brazil.

A decision could be made Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings in Dallas, according to ESPN.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said in October that another international locale could happen “as early as next year.”

The league has scouted locations in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil, as well as Madrid in Spain for a potential 2025 game.

“There’s a lot of interest in the NFL,” league executive vice president Peter O’Reilly told ESPN in September. “I mean, we saw it. We did a Super Bowl viewing party last year down in Brazil, and it was packed and the energy is there.

“You’ve got some classic soccer clubs around the world who are really interested in hosting the NFL and building a relationship with the NFL. So the marriage of those two — there’s interests there, for sure, and it’s just determining the timing and the approach.”

The NFL’s International Series featured three games in London and two in Frankfurt, Germany, this season.

The 2024 schedule includes action in Munich, Germany (one game) and London (three), with the participants to be determined.

The Miami Dolphins possess commercial rights in Brazil, and the Chicago Bears and Dolphins have rights in Spain under the NFL’s global markets program. The league has never played a regular-season game in either nation.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Former Carolina Panthers great Julius Peppers is honored on the field before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Peppers, Antonio Gates among 25 Hall of Fame semifinalists

Julius Peppers and Antonio Gates are among 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024.

Peppers, a prolific pass rusher for the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, and Gates, a tight end for the San Diego Chargers, joined 18 players who were semifinalists for the Class of 2023.

Eight of the final 15 in the ’23 class are again semifinalists, including Jared Allen, Willie Anderson, Dwight Freeney, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Torry Holt, Patrick Willis and Darren Woodson.

Peppers had 159.5 career sacks and 10 seasons with double-digit sacks. Like Gates, Peppers was a three-time All-Pro. Gates helped redefine his position and was an All-Pro in just his second season. He played a total of 16 seasons and is behind only Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten among tight ends in NFL history with 955 catches for 11,841 yards. Gates’ 116 touchdown receptions set the NFL record for tight ends.

Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, who retired following the 2006 season, joins Peppers and Gates as first-time semifinalists.

The 25 semifinalists will be reduced to 15 finalists before the final voting process for the Class of 2024 takes place in Las Vegas ahead of Super Bowl LVIII in February.

Also under consideration in February are the recommended nominees of the Hall of Fame’s Coach/Contributor Committee: Buddy Parker; and its Seniors Committee: Randy Gradishar, Steve McMichael and Art Powell.

–25 modern-day semifinalists
The following is the list of 2024 Modern-Era Player Semifinalists, including their positions, years in the NFL and teams.

Also listed are the number of times and years the candidate has been named a Semifinalist since this reduction vote was added to the Hall’s bylaws in 2004.

Eric Allen, CB, 1988-1994 Philadelphia Eagles, 1995-97 New Orleans Saints, 1998-2001 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2021-24)
Jared Allen, DE, 2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings, 2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2021-24)
Willie Anderson, T, 1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals, 2008 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2021-24)
Tiki Barber, RB, 1997-2006 New York Giants | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2024)
Anquan Boldin, WR, 2003-09 Arizona Cardinals, 2010-12 Baltimore Ravens, 2013-15 San Francisco 49ers, 2016 Detroit Lions | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2022-24)
Jahri Evans, G, 2006-16 New Orleans Saints, 2017 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2023-24)
London Fletcher, LB, 1998-2001 St. Louis Rams, 2002-06 Buffalo Bills, 2007-13 Washington Redskins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2023-24)
Dwight Freeney, DE, 2002-2012 Indianapolis Colts, 2013-14 San Diego Chargers, 2015 Arizona Cardinals, 2016 Atlanta Falcons, 2017 Seattle Seahawks, 2017 Detroit Lions | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2023-24)
Antonio Gates, TE, 2003-18 San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2024)
Eddie George, RB, 1996-2003 Houston/Tennessee Oilers/Titans, 2004 Dallas Cowboys (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2022, 2024)
James Harrison, LB, 2002-12, 2014-17 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2013 Cincinnati Bengals, 2017 New England Patriots | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2023-24)
Rodney Harrison, S, 1994-2002 San Diego Chargers, 2003-08 New England Patriots | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2021, 2023-24)
Devin Hester, PR/KR/WR, 2006-2013 Chicago Bears, 2014-15 Atlanta Falcons, 2016 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2022-24)
Torry Holt, WR, 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2015-2024)
Andre Johnson, WR, 2003-14 Houston Texans, 2015 Indianapolis Colts, 2016 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2022-24)
Robert Mathis, DE/LB, 2003-16 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2022-24)
Julius Peppers, DE, 2002-09, 2017-18 Carolina Panthers, 2010-13 Chicago Bears, 2014-15 Green Bay Packers (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2024)
Steve Smith Sr., WR, 2001-13 Carolina Panthers, 2014-16 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2022-24)
Fred Taylor, RB, 1998-2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009-10 New England Patriots | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2020-24)
Hines Ward, WR, 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2017-2024)
Ricky Watters, RB, 1992-94 San Francisco 49ers, 1995-97 Philadelphia Eagles, 1998-2001 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2020, 2022-24)
Reggie Wayne, WR, 2001-14 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2020-24)
Vince Wilfork, DT, 2004-14 New England Patriots, 2015-16 Houston Texans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2022-24)
Patrick Willis, LB, 2007-14 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2020-24)
Darren Woodson, S, 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2015, 2017, 2019-2024)

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins tight end Moliki Matavao (88) celebrates after scoring on a 26-yard touchdown reception against the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at Rose Bowl. UCLA defeated Colorado 28-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA, Washington to travel cross-country twice in 2024 Big Ten schedule

UCLA and Washington football will rack up frequent flyer miles in their first season in the Big Ten.

The Big Ten on Thursday released its football schedule for 2024, its first year as an 18-team league thanks to the additions of UCLA, Southern California, Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12.

Maryland’s home game against Michigan State on Sept. 7 will mark the first Big Ten game of the season, while Southern California will make its league debut on the road at Michigan on Sept. 21.

The Bruins — who fly to Hawaii and LSU in their nonconference schedule — will host Indiana on Sept. 14 for their first Big Ten game. But they’ll head to the East Coast twice in three weeks during October to face Penn State (Oct. 5) and Rutgers (Oct. 19).

Washington’s travel schedule is only slightly less taxing. The Huskies’ first Big Ten game comes Sept. 21 against Northwestern, but they will visit Rutgers on Sept. 28 and return east to face Penn State on Nov. 9.

The league ensured with its “Flex Protect XVIII” schedule model that 12 annual rivalries were protected. Also, teams based in the Eastern and Central time zones get to either play a home game or take a bye week after traveling to one of the four new West Coast teams for a game.

The Oregon-Washington game was added to rivalry weekend, taking place on Nov. 30. The same won’t be true for USC-UCLA because USC is hosting Notre Dame for its regular-season finale on Nov. 30. The California rivals will play Nov. 23 instead, and UCLA moved a nonconference game against Fresno State to Nov. 30 to accommodate.

–Field Level Media

IMG Academy running back Jerrick Gibson

Jerrick Gibson, No. 2 RB in 2024, commits to Texas

Texas landed a commitment Saturday from Jerrick Gibson, ranked as the nation’s No. 2 running back in the 2024 class on the 247Sports composite.

Gibson, a 5-foot-10 back who plays at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., announced his commitment during an official visit in Austin. The four-star prospect chose the Longhorns over Georgia, Tennessee and Miami after official visits with all three this month.

“Just where his heart was,” Gibson’s father, Victor Jenkins, told 247Sports about Texas.

“Just the development, especially for his position, they develop well. I feel like I can leave him there and not have to worry about anything.”

Taylor Tatum from Longview, Texas, is the No. 1 running back in the class. He has yet to commit.

With Gibson’s pledge, Texas has its sixth 2024 commit.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Glenville defensive back Bryce West (2) tackles Wyoming Cowboys wide receiver Will Svendsen (10) causing a turnover on downs in the third quarter of the OHSAA DIV state championship game between at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022.

High School Football Wyoming Vs Cleveland Glenville In Ohsaa Div State Championship Game

Ohio’s top 2024 player, Bryce West, commits to Ohio State

Four-star cornerback Bryce West committed to Ohio State’s 2024 class, according to a social media post Saturday.

West is the No. 1 recruit in Ohio and the No. 4 player at his position in the nation, as ranked by the 247Sports composite. The 5-foot-11 West is from Cleveland and plays at Glenville High School.

Michigan made a push to land West, but his commitment to Ohio State gives the Buckeyes the top in-state player for six straight classes.

With West’s commitment, the Buckeyes now have the No. 2-ranked class in the nation behind Georgia, per the 247Sports composite. He becomes the top-ranked defensive player in the 2024 class, which is headlined by a pair of five-star wide receivers — Jeremiah Smith of Florida and Mylan Graham of Indiana.

–Field Level Media

Georgia coach Kirby Smart speaks to the media on the first day of spring football practice in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, March 14, 2023.

News Joshua L Jones

CFP schedule runs into late January in 2024, 2025

The 2024 and 2025 College Football Playoff schedule covers more than one month and extends to the second half of January.

Championship games both seasons will be played only two months before many programs begin spring practice.

All four first-round games in the expanded playoff structure will be played on the campus of the highest-ranked team in a given matchup. Established bowl games and sites will take over the CFP with the quarterfinals through the national championship.

The 2024 national title game will be played Monday, Jan. 20, 2025, in Atlanta.

For context, the 2023 national champion Georgia Bulldogs won the second of their back-to-back titles with a 65-7 win over TCU on Jan. 9. The Bulldogs began spring practice on March 14.

Programs are permitted 15 on-field practices during spring.

Auburn, Missouri and Vanderbilt were among teams who opened spring practice in February. Indiana, USC and Texas all began spring practice the first week of March in 2023.

CFP schedule, 2024 season
First Round (On-campus games)
Friday, December 20, 2024: One game (evening)
Saturday, December 21, 2024: Three games (early afternoon, late afternoon and evening)

Quarterfinals
Tuesday, December 31, 2024: Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (evening)
Wednesday, January 1, 2025: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (early afternoon), Rose Bowl Game (late afternoon) and Allstate Sugar Bowl (evening)

Semifinals
Thursday, January 9, 2025: Capital One Orange Bowl (evening)
Friday, January 10, 2025: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (evening)

CFP National Championship
Monday, January 20, 2025: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.

CFP schedule, 2025 Season
First Round (On-campus games)
Friday, December 19, 2025: One game (evening)
Saturday, December 20, 2025: Three games (early afternoon, late afternoon and evening)

Quarterfinals
Wednesday, December 31, 2025: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (evening)
Thursday, January 1, 2026: Capital One Orange Bowl (early afternoon), Rose Bowl Game (late afternoon) and Allstate Sugar Bowl (evening)

Semifinals
Thursday, January 8, 2026: Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (evening)
Friday, January 9, 2026: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (evening)

CFP National Championship
Monday, January 19, 2026: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

–Field Level Media