New York: Two top National Football League receivers, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys and Demaryius Thomas of Denver, were among those given a "franchise player" tag on Monday by their clubs.
On the deadline day for teams to decide which players will be given the label, Dallas made the move to keep Bryant off the free agency market.
But as a result, the Cowboys open the door to allow NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray to test his value on the open market.
The franchise tag means a player will receive a one-year contract for the average of the top-five NFL salaries at the position, which in the case of Bryant and Thomas figures to be about $12.8 million (11.4 million euros).
Players often prefer to avoid the tag in favor of more long-term guaranteed money, risking another season of injury before they can seek a better long-term deal.
Bryant can still work on a long-term deal with the Cowboys until July 15. He can talk with other teams, but Dallas has the right to match any offer or be awarded two first-round NFL Draft choices as compensation for losing him.
The moves by Dallas and Denver could mean great savings on top talent in the free agent market.
Bryant, 26, caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and a career-high 16 touchdowns last year and had 90-reception campaigns. He has 381 career receptions for 5,424 yards and 56 touchdowns over five seasons.
Thomas, 27, has made the Pro Bowl the past three years and this past season set a Broncos single-season record with 1,619 receiving yards. He has 351 catches for 5,317 yards and 41 touchdowns over 69 career NFL games.
As teams prepare for next week`s start of NFL free agency, the NFL and players union announced that the league salary cap has increased more than $10 million to $143.28 million a team.
The revamped salary limit, up from $133 million last year, begins next Monday, but some teams have more money available because they carry over some unusued funds from 2014.
The union says the Jacksonville Jaguars will have the highest adjusted salary cap at more than $168 million after carrying over $21.7 million from 2014.