For the last two years, those who follow the Redskins have had the date of the franchise tag deadline marked on their calendars. The question of if the Redskins would use a franchise or transition tag on Kirk Cousins would start to ramp up as that date grew closer.
We were expecting similar speculation regarding Cousins this year. March 6 is the 2018 deadline and at NBC Sports Washington we were having some preliminary talks about how we would cover the story in the days leading up to it.
But those plans went out the window on Tuesday night when the news of the Alex Smith trade broke. Since Cousins will not be tagged (sorry those of you still dreaming that they can still pull off a tag and trade deal) it is very unlikely that the Redskins will use a tag on any player this year.
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While the Redskins have some free agents they would like to keep around, the franchise tag is too expensive to use on any of them. It’s not as costly as the $20 million and $24 million QB tags we’ve seen with Cousins the past two years but the salaries are just too high for any of the players the Redskins might want to lock up.
The free agent that the team would most like to have back is inside linebacker Zach Brown. Last year he joined the team on a one-year deal. He played well enough to earn a multi-year contract. Brown’s camp and the Redskins have been in negotiations but if there is no tangible progress by the time the tag deadline rolls around they might want to do something to lock him up for at least the 2018 season.
However, that is a non-starter as the cost of the tag is prohibitive. The top inside linebackers in the game like Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner have contracts with average annual values in the $10 million-$12 million range. Brown probably belongs in the group just below that, maybe $8 million or so. So if negotiations stall, why not just slap the franchise tag on him?
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The problem is that the 2017 one-year franchise salary tag for a linebacker was $15.3 million or a little less than twice what Brown should make annually in a long-term contract. That number is likely to go up to $16 million or more in 2018. That simply is too much money to pay an inside linebacker.
But, wait. If the tag number is calculated using the averages of the salaries of the top players, why is it so high? The problem is that all linebackers are lumped in together for the purpose of the tag. The salaries of the top edge rushing OLBs like Von Miller ($19.1 million average annual value) and Chandler Jones ($16.5 million) are the main drivers of the tag calculation.
Tagging Brown is a non-starter at that price. It’s also way too much for Junior Galette.
How about cornerback Bashaud Breeland? They might want to hold on to him after trading Kendall Fuller. But franchise tagging him also would cost a salary in the $16 million range. A corner with Breeland’s resume should get a maximum of $9 million, maybe $10 million per year. Again, the tag is too much of a premium to pay.
It should be noted that while transition tag salaries are not quite as much as the franchise tags, the cost of using the tag, which would allow the Redskins to match an offer from another team, is still too high to justify using on any of the Redskins players.
Although in Washington we have become accustomed to the local team using the tag, in a given year most teams don’t use it. Seven teams used it in 2017 while 10 got a tag in 2016.