The Redskins are reportedly considering whether to place the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. The hope would be to trade Cousins, allowing the team to get back some of what they agreed to give up to acquire Alex Smith from the Chiefs.
What a stupid idea.
It’s not good business — it’s petty, a sucker punch to the passer whom they’ve already unofficially replaced. Cousins outmaneuvered Washington over the past two years, getting a combined $44 million after being tagged twice. The Redskins can’t stand to watch Cousins go without extracting something in return.
If Washington goes through with this absurd move, which team president Bruce Allen supposedly floated with several league officials last week, only bad things will happen. Allen would be outsmarting himself again. Think back to 2012, when the team was penalized $36 million in cap space because Allen had tried to take advantage of a no-cap season in 2010, when he moved massive chunks of salary for Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall to that year’s payroll.
Using an unprecedented third straight tag on Cousins would cost $34.5 million against the salary cap regardless of whether he signs the deal. Cousins could start a stalemate by refusing to sign, giving the Redskins no money to sign free agents in the interim. That gives the quarterback the power to choke the team into submission.
Other teams know the Redskins can’t hold onto Cousins long before rescinding the offer. Those teams would just wait it out. After all, teams don’t want a ridiculous $34.5 million deal for a one-year rental without any guarantees that he’ll sign a long-term deal.
The Redskins would be in line to receive a third-round compensatory pick in 2019 if Cousins leaves as a free agent. If they tag him and have to rescind the tag, they lose the right to that compensation. So for the tag to be worth it, Washington would have to get a second-round pick or better for a trade to be worthwhile.
Applying the cheaper, $28 million transition tag gives Cousins the right to field deals from other teams that Washington could match. But the Redskins would get no compensation if they lost Cousins, and signing him would only give them the right to choose his destination in a trade.
If the Redskins try this move, they’ll get a black eye around the league. Free agents used to come to Washington despite the front office’s bad reputation because the team consistently overpaid. That practice has disappeared under Allen, whose pettiness in dealing with Cousins would only deter future free agents.
The Redskins should just let Cousins go when free agency starts March 14. Allen needs to learn that he who laughs last doesn’t always laugh best.