The rules of the franchise tag create a strong disincentive against using it for a third time. It may not be enough to keep Washington from doing that in order to hold quarterback Kirk Cousins in place.
Vis CSNMidAtlantic.com, team president Bruce Allen acknowledged on Monday that Cousins could end up being on the wrong end of the franchise tag for three straight years: 2016, 2017, and 2018.
“In the Collective Bargaining Agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract,” Allen said.
There are two problems with this approach. First, the CBA guarantees Cousins a 44-percent raise over his 2017 salary of $23.94 million. That’s $34.47 million. Which is way too much for Cousins to count against the salary cap for a single season.
Second, the comment from Allen will make it even harder to get a long-term deal done before the looming July 15 deadline. It’s currently believed that the Cousins camp calculates his long-term deal based on the player making $23.94 million in 2017 and getting only a 20-percent raise under the transition tag in 2018 (i.e., $28.72 million). That’s $52.66 million fully guaranteed at signing, over the first two years. With Allen treating the franchise tag as a real possibility, that changes the value of the long-term deal to $58.41 million fully guaranteed at signing over the first two years.
The difference may not matter, given that Washington doesn’t seem to be inclined to offer even the lower amount. So it’s likely that Cousins will, for the second straight year, operate on a one-year deal.
A third franchise tag, while highly unlikely, isn’t an impossibility. If Cousins plays well and Washington goes deep into the postseason, Washington may have no choice but to pay the $34.47 million for one more year with Cousins.
Regardless, Cousins can’t lose. He will have made nearly $44 million over two years, and he’ll get $34.47 million or $28.78 million for 2018, or a long-term deal from Washington or someone else.
Washington lost two years ago, by not putting good-but-not-great money on the table in 2015, while Cousins still carried injury risk under his rookie deal and had never gotten a big-money contract. They could have had him for considerably less than $43.89 million over two years — and definitely a lot less than $72.67 million or $78.36 million over three years.
They’re now locked in to the former, and they may eventually pay out at much as $78.36 million over three years, an average of $26.12 million per year.