Again bogged down in contract negotiations with their quarterback, it seems clear the Redskins and Kirk Cousins are having a tough time finding a dollar figure acceptable for both parties on a long-term deal.
Listening to comments about the contract talks, from Cousins himself and his agent, Mike McCartney, one recurring theme has emerged.
The Cousins' camp appreciates the franchise tag, and the high, fully-guaranteed salary it brings, but appears to resent the contractual mechanicism that keeps the quarterback from hitting the open market.
McCartney made mention of the situation speaking to NFL Network at the combine:
At the end of the day [the Redskins are] the ones that placed the franchise tag on [Cousins]. A player, when his contract is up, looks forward to going to free agency to see what his value is on the open market. This is the second straight year that’s been taken away from Kirk so the Redskins did say something about, ‘hey, this guy is worth $24 million.’ Kirk didn’t ask for the franchise tag, I didn’t ask for the franchise tag. Still it’s a heck of a commitment from the club, and we view it that way.
Earlier this week, Cousins appeared on Adam Schefter's podcast. The headlines from that session came about Cousins' conversation with Redskins owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen about a possible trade and the club's commitment to their QB. Dig a little deeper into Cousins' comments, however, and the same market discussion emerged. From the podcast:
I see myself going through this negotiation process as there’s still time until the July 15 deadline. And from there you still have a whole 16-game season, and hopefully more games than that. And then from there, you can still be tagged again. And this entire process for me, from a contractual standpoint, has been framed by the franchise tag rules. It hasn’t really been framed by my market value. I would be content to go to the market and see what that value is and settle for whatever that is. But because of the franchise tag rules, and the team’s use of the tag, that just hasn’t taken place.
As a result, my agent has had this whole negotiation from the perspective of the franchise tag rules. And until that system of the tag is removed from the equation, or removed from the collective bargaining agreement altogether, that’s gonna frame the entirety of my agent’s approach. We’ll just keep going. People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row.
Read it again. It's clear Cousins and his team see the tag in every part of the contract discussion. And within that framework, he is worth $24 million in 2017 and at least $28 million in 2018. Whether the Redskins agree with those terms are not, that is the framework of a deal that Cousins and his agent have repeatedly laid out.
It's also interesting that Cousins nodded towards the elimination of the franchise tag in the CBA. Players generally hate being tagged because, like McCartney mentioned, they want to hit the open market and determine their value. Many players refuse to work out or show up for team functions when tagged. Cousins has not gone that route, but that comment, though subtle, likely shows his desire to hit the open market.
It's clear Cousins likes the tag, "I’ve always said the franchise tag is my friend, I’m not afraid of it," but free agency is the goal for almost every player. The tag prevents it from happening.
And in the Redskins case, the tag may be preventing a long-term deal for their franchise quarterback.
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