When the Redskins reached a five-year, nearly $50 million contract extension with tight end Jordan Reed in May, it not only was great news for the organization because it locked up the best pass catching tight end south of Massachusetts, it gave Washington salary cap flexibility for next season when Reed was due to become a free agent. Getting Reed's deal done also gave the Redskins flexibility to use the franchise tag elsewhere next season, a move they may need to make if a multi-year contract can't be reached by Friday afternoon with Kirk Cousins.
The best teams act in advance of free agency, making decisions to lock up key players or building in plans to appropriately use the franchise tag. For the Redskins, placing the franchise tag on Cousins means the team knows the quarterback will be back in 2016, and GM Scot McCloughan did not have to beat other offers for Cousins on the open market this offseason.
Most importantly, it gave McCloughan and the Redskins brass time to negotiate with Cousins, but with just over 24 hours to go before the deadline Friday afternoon, a long-term contract seems like anything but a done deal.
Some say Washington is being prudent having Cousins play on the one-year, $19.9 million franchise tag in 2016. That way, if Cousins proves that 2015 was a one-year flash in the pan, the organization won't be locked into too much money. Others argue that the price tag for Cousins will only go up next season, so get a deal done now that guarantees the Redskins have a capable QB for seasons to come.
One thing to remember, though, every action brings with it a set of unintended consequences.
Consider: If the Redskins fail to reach a deal with Cousins before the franchise deadline, he will be the first QB to enter into a season on a franchise tag since Drew Brees. And if Cousins succeeds on a franchise tag? The Redskins will have no choice but to franchise Cousins again in 2017 while working again trying to work out the details of a multi-year contract.
So - if Redskins LB Junior Galette produces this fall like he has in the past, Washington will have little recourse next offseason if he reaches free agency. Galette racked up 22 sacks in 2013 and 2014 before missing 2015 with an Achilles injury. By all accounts - especially his own social media - the former New Orleans sack specialist could be a pass rushing force for the 'Skins this fall.
If Galette finishes 2016 with double digit sacks, that likely means the Redskins defense is much improved. Teamed with Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, a healthy Galette poses serious problems for opposing offensive lines.
Galette is playing 2016 on a one-year, $1.1 million contract. Look through his Twitter feed, and it's obvious Galette has plans on a much larger contract in 2017. If Galette can be the player in 2016 for the Redskins that he was in 2013 and 2014 for New Orleans, McCloughan would probably like to keep him around. And that will be much harder to do if McCloughan has to again use the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins, meaning Galette will hit the open market.
Much rides on the contract talks between Washington and Cousins, but like anything, all actions carry unintended consequences. Galette may not prove to be the player for the 'Skins that he was for the Saints, but if he is, it would be in the Redskins favor to have the option of the franchise tag in 2017.