According to a report, the Redskins are leaning towards using the transition tag on Kirk Cousins rather than the franchise tag. Why would they do that?
Both tags give the player a one-year salary that becomes guaranteed once he signs the tender offer. For quarterbacks, it’s $19.9 million for the franchise, $17.6 million for the transition. In both cases the player is free to go out on the open market and get contract offers. He can choose one of the offers and take it back to his current team and they decide if they want to match it or not. If they match he stays with his original team. If they decline to do so, he goes to a new team.
This point is where the two tags differ. Under the franchise tag, a team that declines to match the offer gets two first-round draft picks as compensation. Under transition, the team that loses the player gets no compensation.
So, again, why would the Redskins do that? They save $2.3 million but they lose compensation if they choose not to match an offer.
The reason a team would use the transition tag is that they can get a better idea of the player’s value. The two first-round picks that another team would have to pay in addition to a contract so large that the Redskins would not match it. The franchise tag rarely results in serious contract talks, much less offer sheets.
According to multiple reports the Redskins and Cousins’ camp are far apart in what they believe to be Cousins’ value. Cousins’ situation is unusual, as he put up franchise-type numbers in his fourth year in the league, the final year of his rookie contract. Prior to that his appearances were up and down. There just aren’t any comparable contracts to use as guidance in negotiations.
The best way to find out a player’s market value is to, well, put him out in the market. The transition tag does that without the factor of the draft pick price hanging over any negotiations.
Here is a potential scenario: The Redskins believe that Cousins’ agent is asking for much more than he would get from another team. They decide to let him go out and talk to other teams. Ideally for the team, the agent hears some lower numbers than the ones he has been proposing. After a few weeks the Redskins and Cousins’ camp resume negotiations with a much smaller gap between them. A deal is done before the draft at a price closer to what the team is offering than what Cousins is asking for. Both sides are comfortable with the deal because it’s based on the player’s actual market value.
Of course, a lot can go wrong here. A team with a lot of cap room could present an offer with a high first-round cap number, an offer that would put the Redskins in a very sticky situation when it comes to signing and retaining players. Or they could make an offer that for any number of reasons might not be acceptable to the Redskins.
It should be noted again that the report was that the Redskins are “leaning” towards the transition tag. And that is just one report; the Washington Post is reporting this morning that the team is more likely to use the franchise tag if they can’t reach agreement by the deadline, which comes at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
The bottom line is about money. If the Redskins believe that contract talks were going to go nowhere if he couldn’t see what his true market value is then they need to get him into the market. If that knowledge results in Cousins signing a five-year deal for an average of, say, $15 million per year instead of worth $20 million they will have saved $25 million in cap space that could be used to strengthen the team.
The risk, of course, is having a whole lot more cap money but starting all over again at the quarterback position.