Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 2, seven days before the start of NFL free agency.
Cousins tag will make Reed extension harder to get done
Technically, the Redskins are over the NFL salary cap after officially placing the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. The quarterback tag cap charge puts them over by $6.55 million.
It’s all perfectly legal; they will be in the good graces of Rodger Goodell and John Mara by the time the league years starts on March 9. But Cousins’ cap hit of $19.95 million, or 12.8 percent of the salary cap, will make it difficult to make some moves in free agency and make it hard to hold on to some players the team may want to keep.
One current player who is not a free agent who might be in line for a new contract is tight end Jordan Reed. He helped make Cousins that $20 million this year by leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions in 2015. Reed is in the last year of his rookie contract and will make $1.6 million in 2016.
The team would like to sign him to an extension but that is something that will have to go on the back burner while they attend to some more immediate business.
This doesn’t mean that an extension for Reed can’t get done at some point before the season starts. But it probably means that Cousins will have to get an extension first.
The Redskins and Cousins will continue to negotiate a deal that would supersede the franchise tag contract. Usually such deals have a relative low first-year cap hit. That could create room for the Redskins to squeeze in an extension for Reed.
Here is how it could play out. The Redskins go into the summer with a few million dollars of cap room, just enough to get through the season accounting for players on injured reserve and paying practice squad players. Cousins and the Redskins negotiate right up until the July 15 deadline and come up with a five-year deal that averages $18 million per year. Since the salary cap is going to rise over the course of the contract it is structure to have a relatively low first-year cap hit of $14 million.
That takes $6 million off of the cap. In mid July there are no free agents worth pursuing so the best thing to do is use it to take care of their own. They would start serious negotiations with Reed’s agent and just before the regular season they sign him to a four-year extension worth about $10 million per year, using some of that recently created $6 million to help pay for it.
It will be important for the Redskins at least to get either Cousins or Reed to agree to a long-term deal. They don’t want to get into a situation in 2017 where both Cousins and Reed are free agents. They would only be able to franchise tag one of them and the two players need each other to be successful.
—The Redskins last played a game 52 days ago. It will be about 193 days until they play another one.
—Days until: NFL free agency starts 7; Redskins offseason workouts start 47; 2016 NFL draft 57
In case you missed it
- Cousins tagged as franchise player
- Cousins should be all smiles after seeing Bradford contract
- Despite tag, Cousins still not under contract with Redskins
- Don't expect contract holdout from Cousins over franchise, per former agent
- Cousins tag put the Redskins over the salary cap
- Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016