Will Anyone Sign at the Franchise Tag Deadline?

The deadline to extend Franchise players is Monday which leaves Kirk Cousins, Le’Veon Bell, and Trumaine Johnson just a few more days to gain that added job security for the season. While none are reportedly close to a deal these contracts can often come out of nowhere at the last second (think Muhammad Wilkerson who signed so late it was reported he didn’t get an extension) despite whatever posturing there is on both sides. Let’s take a quick look at the three players.

Kirk Cousins

I can’t help but think that the Redskins have completely botched this contract. Last year I think it made all the sense in the world to not sign Cousins long term. He came off a good year after three seasons of relatively non-descript play. The odds were against Cousins being a long term viable starter off what could have been a fluke season and the investment in light of the Brock Osweiler contract would have been $18-$20 million a season with close to $40 million in guarantees, so Id argue that rolling the dice on one year for $19.95 million was worth it.

But after another relatively good year the Redskins really needed to make a firm decision on his status. Either he stays long term on say a $23 million a year contract or he goes via trade to a team like the 49ers. Instead they tagged him at $24 million and have allowed him to sit and stew about his future. He is already beyond the Osweiler and Tannehill two year salary levels and if they tag him again next year he would be in the Andrew Luck region. The price should have gone up in light of the Derek Carr $25 million contract extension and I can’t see any reason that Cousins would sign for less than that.

Washington’s front office was in such turmoil that its hard to make a prediction here. Id say if this was any other team in the league Cousins would sign a new contract on Monday, but Washington has taken an odd hardline stance on his value while at the same time being happy enough to keep him around at $24 million for the season. I’d guess a contract won’t get done.

Le’Veon Bell

This is a rare case where the positional price of running back likely plays a role. Running backs are the cheapest positional players in the league and the top of the market is just over $8 million a season. Bell’s tag value already pushes him past $12 million. There have been two recent running backs to jump over the $10 million a year hurdle. One was Adrian Peterson who signed a generation ago and nearly played out his contract while the other was Marshawn Lynch on a shorter term $12 million a year extension that saw him retire after just one year.

Bell also has some red flags due to multiple injuries and some off the field stuff, but I don’t think that will be a concern for the Steelers who would more or less be able to recover signing bonus money anyway and those are the only guarantees they do in contracts.

Given the market for the position, Bell has reason to get a deal done rather than play the year out. Unlike Cousins there is not going to be a better offer next year if the Steelers come in at $10 million a season. The risk of injury at the position is so big that anything above $9 million a year he has to probably consider even if his goal is much higher. His threshold number should be to increase his salary this year to $18-$20 million which would blow McCoy’s $16 million year one salary out and that would be fair for both sides. Given the way the Steelers often treat their own players it would be a bit of a surprise if they could not come to an agreement.

Trumaine Johnson

I’m not really sure what the Rams were thinking with Johnson. When they tagged him last year he basically ran to lock in that close to $14 million salary because the odds were against him earning much more than in free agency anyway. When they did it a second time at nearly $17 million he ran even quicker to sign it before the Rams came to their senses.

To put the numbers in some kind or perspective his $30.6 million he will earn on the tag will be above Janoris Jenkins $29 million, well above AJ Bouye and Darius Slay at $27 and $25 million and close to the 2 year payout of Stefon Gilmore at $32 million and Desmond Trufant at $33 million.

Johnson will still be a free agent next year and likely earn anywhere from $13 to $15 million in cash in 2018, whether with the Rams of someone else. Assuming he does that it would put his 3 year salary at $43 to $45 million which is putting him in the Richard Sherman and Joe Haden class of contract.  Would anyone have given him that kind of contract last year?  I think the answer is a clear no.

Either way that this works out I think the Rams don’t look good. If you use the tag on a player like Johnson you are using it to make a long term deal. If they call your bluff in year one you probably just need to make whatever deal you can. Doing it two years in a row just seems crazy, but at this point his asking price from the Rams should be significantly higher than his market value. It just seems like a lose-lose proposition for the team and Johnson probably has little incentive to give in much which makes it unlikely a contract gets done.

  • McGeorge

    I can’t wait to see how the Redskins handle this.
    They are going to lose Cousins, and end up with some scrub QB and go back to being a 6-10 team.

  • LM

    The Skins put themselves in a bind. You don’t tag a qb twice without making a long term decision. Now they are staring at doing it 3 times, if they want to get a return on their investment. He’s played like a top 10 qb, who is going to be paid like a top 3 qb. Bell’s deal should be done already. I expect a long term deal in the summer. Trumaine should be traded by The Rams. There are questions as to whether he will fit their new scheme and some teams will pay and value him as if he is a #1 corner.

    • McGeorge

      The Redskins wont tag him a third time. He’s gone.

      • LM

        If they don’t, They lose him for nothing besides cap space and a compensatory pick or two.

        • McGeorge

          Its up to Kirk Cousins if he wants to stay. If he doesn’t like the organization, and another club will pay him, then why not leave?
          The Redskins needed to sign him at the end of the 2016 season, not wait it out.

          • LM

            If Cousins doesn’t agree to a new deal. Skins will be forced to tag him again and then trade him.

          • McGeorge

            No they won’t because the receiving team will be on the hook for whatever that crazy amount of money is. Cousins is gone. The Redskins have no more leverage or bargaining power. They can franchise him and keep him for 1 more year. But they can’t franchise him and trade him. No team will pay 36MM , plus his other years, plus give up draft picks.

          • LM

            We shall see. Any team that has loads of cap room and no franchise qb, would consider a trade and then a long term extension. Skins are not going to let him walk away free unless he has bad 2017 or suffers a serious injury.