After three winters of chaos and speculation about whether the Redskins would place the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins — the final one ending in last year’s trade for Alex Smith — this offseason has been comparatively calm, at least when it comes to the franchise tag.
Washington is not expected to tag anyone when the NFL’s period for putting franchise or transition tags on players opens on Tuesday. The franchise tag is essentially a one-year contract worth the average of the top five salaries in the league at the player’s position or 120 percent of that player’s salary, whichever amount is higher. But none of the Redskins’ impending free agents is significant enough to tag and the team can’t afford to do so anyway.
According to the website Over The Cap, Washington has $17.7 million of available cap space, which doesn’t allow the team much flexibility to dedicate the estimated $12 million to $17 million it will take to franchise one of its free agents.
“They don’t really have anybody really worthy of it,” said J.I. Halsell, a former Redskins salary cap analyst.
The only tag possibility might be safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who came in a midseason trade-deadline deal with Green Bay. Clinton-Dix was supposed to team with fellow safety D.J. Swearinger to form one of the league’s best safety tandems. But they didn’t play well together and Swearinger was released days before the year’s final game after openly criticizing defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
Since the Redskins gave up a fourth-round pick for Clinton-Dix, they might want to get more of a return than nine games for him. But at what cost? The franchise tag for safeties is projected to be around $12 million this winter. Clinton-Dix probably won’t get a contract with an average value that high. If Washington wants him back, it can sign him at a lower cost.
“The last part of the season in which he was part of the team, he didn’t really show us anything that tells us he’s a long-term fit,” Halsell says.
Aside from Clinton-Dix, the other tag possibilities for the Redskins are outside linebacker Preston Smith and receiver Jamison Crowder. Washington might want both back but, like Clinton-Dix, they aren’t likely to get contracts that pay them as much as their position’s tag value.
Smith, a promising pass rusher, who had 24.5 sacks in his four years with the team, plays a position that will carry somewhere between $15 million and $16 million this winter. Tagging Crowder would cost $17 million. He is expected to get a yearly average of half of that, or less, in his next contract.
Kareem Copeland contributed to this report.
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