For the second consecutive offseason, the Washington Redskins have applied the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins, according to Cousins’s agent, Mike McCartney. The Redskins applied the exclusive variant of the tag prior to Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, meaning its Pro Bowl quarterback will not hit free agency as an unrestricted free agent on March 9.
Cousins becomes the first quarterback in NFL history to receive the franchise tag in consecutive seasons since it was implemented in 1993.
Tag! I'm it!
— Kirk Cousins (@KirkCousins8) February 28, 2017
The two sides can now attempt to hammer out a long-term deal once again before the July 15 deadline.
By using the exclusive tag on Cousins, the Redskins maintain a small bit of control. Under the rules of this tag, Cousins is not allowed to shop himself to other teams in hopes of receiving an offer sheet to facilitate a trade. The door still remains open for Washington to trade the quarterback, but the Redskins control any potential negotiations on a deal.
Had Cousins received the nonexclusive tag, he could have signed an offer sheet from another team and forced the Redskins to either match the offer or execute a trade. If the Redskins chose not to match that deal, they would’ve received two first-round picks as compensation.
Washington used the nonexclusive tag on Cousins last season, but he promptly signed that deal and didn’t draw interest from outside teams.
Cousins, 28, has amassed a significant amount of leverage in the contract talks since last year. He had a solid 2015 season, leading the Redskins to the playoffs in his first opportunity as a full-time starter, but the Redskins and Cousins couldn’t agree on a multiyear deal. The tag was applied for the first time last offseason, assuring Cousins of $19.95 million in 2016, and the Michigan State product was asked to duplicate his success.
Washington didn’t make the playoffs in 2016, but Cousins proved that 2015 wasn’t a fluke, finishing with 4,917 passing yards — breaking his own franchise record — 29 total touchdowns, 15 turnovers and a 97.2 passer rating.
Cousins has expressed this offseason that he would like to return to the Redskins “under the right set of circumstances.” That includes a long term deal that Cousins and his agent both view as fair, but he would also play on the franchise tag for another season.
“Really just sitting back, letting the team make their decision,” Cousins said at the Pro Bowl in January. “They’ve got the cards, and they’re holding them. They’re going to choose what they want to do. I respect their judgment and their opinion, and I’ll react accordingly. We’ll go from there.”
The Redskins now have to determine whether they want to pay Cousins, keep him on the franchise tag for another season or move on.
Washington loses even more leverage if Cousins plays on the franchise tag in 2017 because it likely wouldn’t use the same tag in 2018 when Cousins’s salary would jump to about $35 million. The Redskins can use the transition tag next offseason, which would give Cousins about $28 million. If a team gives Cousins an offer sheet with the transition tag, the Redskins would have the right to match the offer.
It’s the 16th time that an NFL franchise has used the franchise tag in consecutive years on one player. The New York Giants have also placed the franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for a second straight offseason.
This story will be updated.
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