Win or lose on Sunday, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has won the football lottery. (Sure, Powerball pays better, but there’s a reason that jackpot has gotten so big.)
Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the team is prepared to apply the franchise tag to Cousins if they can’t work out a long-term deal before the deadline for using the tag.
It means that Cousins will be eligible for a one-year, guaranteed salary in the range of $20 million for 2016. It also means that $20 million for the first year — and a 20-percent raise for year two plus a 44-percent raise for year three — becomes the guideline for a long-term contract.
Really, why should Cousins take less than $20 million in 2016 plus the ability to make $24 million in 2017 and $34.5 million in 2018 (that’s $78 million over three years)? In answering that question (even though it was rhetorical), save us the whole “team player” and “how much is enough?” and “leave some money behind for other signings” routine.
Cousins has leverage, and he should use it.
If Washington wants to keep him from signing with another team, Washington needs to be ready to pay him more than another team would offer. If Washington plans to use the tag, it needs to be prepared to do a long-term deal with the tag as the starting point.
Or it needs to be prepared to go one year at a time, with Cousins cashing in each season until Washington decides to pay him or let him walk.
And if Washington thinks enough of Cousins to tag him, Washington needs to be concerned that another team may think enough of him to give up a pair of first-round picks to get him. Which could force Washington to use the exclusive version of the franchise tag, pushing the price for keeping him on a year-to-year basis dramatically higher.
That’s why the Ravens gave Joe Flacco a top-of-the-market deal three years ago in lieu of applying the tag. If they’d used the non-exclusive tag, they would have had to worry about a team like Cleveland signing him to a huge offer sheet. If they’d used the exclusive tag, Flacco would have been in position to break the bank, one year at a time.
Either way, the guy is getting paid. Some may scoff, but if Cousins isn’t the quarterback in Washington, who will they get? Thanks to their latest version of the Heath Shuler/Gus Frerotte misadventure, Washington knows better than anyone that the draft is a crapshoot.