They say it’s a deadline-driven business, even if four of seven franchise-tagged players already have gotten long-term deals done well before the July 15 drop-dead date for doing so. As to the three remaining franchise-tagged players who haven’t signed long-term deals, the true deadline looms.
Within the next 13 days, Kirk Cousins, Le’Veon Bell, and Trumaine Johnson will, or won’t, sign long-term contracts with Washington, Pittsburgh, and the L.A. Rams, respectively. If they don’t, they can sign only one-year contracts through the end of the coming regular season.
Two of them, Cousins and Johnson, already have accepted their franchise tenders, putting them under contract for 2017. Bell hasn’t, which means that he could sign a one-year deal after July 17 that, for example, includes a promise not to use the tag again in 2018.
Of course, the Steelers may not be inclined to tag Bell again in 2018, given that his $12.1 million salary for 2017 jumps 20 percent to $14.52 million for 2018, which could be too much for a tailback, given the market at the position. Thus, the challenge when it comes to negotiating a long-term deal becomes properly valuing the contract beyond 2017.
As to Johnson, who has now been tagged twice, he’s a year away from the quarterback tender, which means he’s a year away from the open market. Which means it’s going to take way too much to sign him now, especially with two years of franchise-tag money in hand.
Cousins continues to hold the cards in D.C., with $19.95 million in the bank (minus taxes), $23.94 million due this year, and a no-lose proposition in 2018, with $34.47 million under the franchise tag, $28.7 million under the transition tag (along with a chance to sign an offer sheet elsewhere), a shot at the open market, or a long-term deal from Washington. As we’ve consistently has explained, anything less than this year’s franchise tag and next year’s transition tag fully guaranteed at signing ($52.64 million over the first two years) will represent a major concession by Cousins — a major concession he’s not likely to make.
With most NFL contracts quickly becoming year-to-year propositions from the team’s perspective, Cousins has proven the value of a year-to-year approach from the player’s perspective. To trade in his chance to push this dance to the limit by forcing Washington to make a tough decision for a third straight year, it’s going to take a lot of money. It’s likely going to take a lot more money than Washington is willing to pay.
However it plays out, a final answer as to each player is coming within 13 days.