Washington hasn’t ruled out the possibility of applying the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins. Unless and until they do, the basic math of the franchise tag will loom over the negotiations. (Or, at least for now, the non-negotiations.)
It’s a simple proposition. If Cousins can make roughly $20 million guaranteed for 2016 under the tag, why would Cousins accept a deal worth, say, $12 million per year? He should just take the $20 million for ones season, buy disability insurance to protect against a serious injury, and go to the market in 2017 — unless Washington wants to give him a 20-percent raise ($24 million) for a second year of the tag.
So if Washington wants to get a deal done with Cousins, Washington needs to make it clear he won’t be tagged.
Of course, that would then open the door to another team trying to sign Cousins away from Washington. And given his performance in 2016 (69.8 percent completion rate, 4,166 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), one of the various quarterback-needy teams could be willing to pay more than Washington wants to pay on a long-term deal.
The only way to keep that from happening is to use the franchise tag. Or to be willing to match or beat any other offer Cousins gets on a multi-year contract.