Kirk Cousins

Tagging Cousins?

The NFL season may be over, but NFL intrigue is still high. In fact, it just got higher with a recent report which states that Kirk Cousins may be franchise tagged again by the Washington Redskins.

What is a franchise tag?

Almost exactly on year ago, Sports Illustrated and ESPN published articles detailing how NFL contracts work with respect to franchise tags.

Starting from the very top, the NFL and the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) have agreed upon players’ rights and contractual obligations in their most recent CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), which is in operation until after the 2020 season.

Under this current CBA, when a player’s contract nears expiration and he is about to be made eligible for free agency, the team that he is under contract with at that moment can designate him with this tag. As stated by ESPN, this labor designation “restricts a player’s potential movement in exchange for a high one-year salary.”

How does a franchise tag work?

There are two types of franchise tags. In an “exclusive rights” franchise tag, the player is stuck with his team for the upcoming season, and his agent is not allowed to entertain offers from other teams. However, the player’s compensation for that season would be worth “the average of the five-largest salaries at [that] player’s position through the end of [that] current year’s restricted free-agent signing period, or 120 percent of the player’s salary the previous year — whichever is greater.”

There are also a “non-exclusive” franchise tag, in which the player has the ability to sign an offer sheet with other teams, but the original team can match the offer’s exact terms or let the player leave and obtain several first round picks from the new team. The compensation rules under this tag are the same as those under the exclusive tag, according to ESPN.

Why tag Cousins?

Following several poor seasons, the Washington Redskins began their offseason this winter by trading one of their cornerbacks and a draft pick for the Chief’s Alex Smith.

Washington – which will reportedly sign Smith to a four-year extension with an average pay of $23.5 million annually, $94 million overall, and $70 million guaranteed – currently has two starting quarterbacks and two primary options for handling this dilemma.

First, they could let Cousins walk out and become a free agent, thereby allowing him to go anywhere he desires. Second, they can place a franchise tag on Cousins for the third consecutive year, and, in so doing, either trade him for players/picks or receive the benefits of him leaving while under a non-exclusive tag.

However, as ESPN also points out, tagging Cousins comes with considerable risk: “Washington could not trade him until he signs the franchise tag, and if Cousins wanted, he could delay signing it for weeks or even months, with the Redskins having to count his approximate $34.5 million against their salary cap … [However] if Washington decided to pull the franchise tag to get Cousins’ contract off its salary cap, it would lose the right to recoup a 2019 compensatory draft pick that it would get if Cousins were able to leave right away as a free agent.”

Time will tell how this situation plays out, but, judging by Washington’s previous offseason antics with Cousins, this situation could get very interesting.


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