Washington applied the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins in 2016 and 2017. Washington chose not to tag Cousins again in 2018, for one very important reason.
By rule, Cousins would have received a 44-percent increase over his 2017 salary, if tagged a third time. For Cousins, that would have pushed his one-year pay from $23.94 million to $34.47 million.
As Cousins and his next employer prepare to negotiate and sign a multi-year contract, the 44-percent rule becomes a factor in the team’s planning for the year after his contract expires. The Drew Brees grievance against the NFL and the Saints from 2012 established that franchise tags stack from one team to the next. Thus, if another team ever tries to apply the franchise tag to Cousins, he’ll be entitled to a 44-percent increase over his cap number from the final year of the deal.
For that reason, his next team could try to structure the contract to have a reasonable cap number in the last year of the contract, cognizant of the looming 44-percent jump. Barring that wrinkle, chances are that Cousins will, for the rest of his career, not have to worry about being franchise-tagged, because no one will be able to justify giving him a 44-percent bump over whatever he’s due to make in the final year of whichever contract he’s completing.