It seems almost inevitable that the Redskins will put the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins between now and the March 1 deadline. This will set the Redskins up to have a very top heavy salary cap structure.
As the website Spotrac noted yesterday, if the Redskins do tag Cousins, giving him a cap hit of $24.9 million, he, Josh Norman ($20 million cap number) and Trent Williams ($15.1 million) will account for a total of $59 million against the cap or 35 percent of the estimated $168 million cap for the 2017 season.
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That’s a lot of money to go to 5.6 percent of the players on the roster. To compare, the top three players on the Cowboys’ cap account for 34.2 percent of the cap. The top three with the Giants take up 29.7 percent and in Philadelphia it’s 17.8 percent. In fact, a check around the league shows that none of the 2016 AFC or NFC playoff teams has a higher percentage of their cap expended on its top three than the Redskins have on theirs.
This caused some consternation among Redskins fans and while it’s something to keep an eye on it does not present a big issue for the team at this time.
For one thing, the Redskins still have a good amount of cap room. If you assume the Cousins tag, they still will have about $40 million in cap space with the ability to create perhaps $10 million more by releasing some veterans and/or redoing some contracts.
Also, it’s a temporary situation. Let’s say that the Redskins hang on to Cousins with a long-term deal and he has a $22 million cap number in 2018. If that the case then Cousins, Norman ($17 million), and Williams ($13.9 million) would still be the top three players on the cap number list and they would total $52 million. On a cap that is projected to be $178 million that would be 29.2 percent of the total. That’s still on the high side but certainly manageable.
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And if you are going to have three players taking up a high percentage of the cap they should be your quarterback, left tackle, and No. 1 cornerback. Those, along with an edge rusher, are the most important players on the team and it’s appropriate to have them among you highest-paid players.
Still, the Redskins must be careful. Signing another free agent with a cap hit like Norman’s is out of the question. And as key contributors like Morgan Moses, Trent Murphy, Jamison Crowder, and Brandon Scherff become eligible for contract extensions or for free agency over the next couple of years, the organization needs to be sure that there is room to retain their own players when the time comes.