As expected, the Redskins used the exclusive franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. The move came Tuesday, a day before the league’s deadline. It means the team controls rights to Cousins for $23.94 million this season, his second straight under the tag, unless they reach a different deal for a long-term contract by July 15, or they trade him. That leaves Washington with about $40 million in salary cap space, limiting its ability to pursue free agents from other teams and retain some if its own. Here are five things that will be affected by the decision to use the tag on Cousins.
The head coach’s contract
If the Redskins want to sign Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal, they need to extend coach Jay Gruden’s contract past 2018. Gruden will be in the fourth year of a five-year deal this year. Cousins would be reluctant to stay after 2017 if he wasn’t assured the coach and system that helped him thrive were included. The Redskins have built a complicated, quick-firing offense that’s well-suited to Cousins. If Cousins sees the Redskins won’t commit to Gruden long-term, which typically happens before the last year of a coach’s contract, the passer may want to start fresh in 2018.
The free-agent receivers
Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, both upcoming unrestricted free agents, aren’t expected to stay with Washington. But now the Redskins definitely don’t have the money to keep both. That’s not the worst thing, though. The duo are both 30 years old, an age that signifies the start of a decline in speed. The contracts both veterans are seeking would leave the Redskins with a lot of dead money by 2019. Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson are on deck, and the team could sign a young free agent. Still, both Garcon and Jackson had 1,000-yard seasons in 2016. It won’t be easy to watch them both exit.
The heat on Bruce Allen
Using the tag on Cousins was president Bruce Allen’s call, and he’ll be judged on it. According to The Washington Post, Allen has decision-making power over general manager Scot McCloughan. If Cousins gets hurt, performs poorly or leaves after the season — the team can’t possibly afford to tag him a third straight time in 2018 — then owner Dan Snyder may find a new president. The Redskins gambled on franchising Cousins last year, and it blew up spectacularly. Now they’re paying $44 million for two years without a long-term deal. Allen should’ve been more proactive and signed Cousins last year.
The running back search
The Redskins need a complete running back to take pressure off Cousins. Robert Kelley and Matt Jones just aren’t good enough. Maybe the Redskins will gamble on aging stars Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles, who were discarded by the Vikings and Chiefs on Tuesday. But if they don’t sign anyone in free agency, drafting a back high could be Plan B. The Redskins haven’t picked a running back in the first round since Ray McDonald in 1967, and he lasted less than two years. Washington needs a lead running back who can average 4 yards per carry, score in the red zone and pick up a blitz.
The shorthanded defense
Last summer, when Cousins talked about signing the franchise tag, Chris Baker grabbed a media microphone and asked McCloughan if there would be any money left for defensive linemen. A year later, the answer is, “not enough.” Baker is a free agent this year, and his departure would leave an already bad Redskins line in worse shape. Washington has enough money for one defensive playmaker and could use a high pick in a draft heavy with linemen. The Redskins have once again invested in offense, and a defense that ranked 28th in the NFL last year needs more attention.
Read more columns from Rick Snider:
Five domino effects from the Redskins tagging Kirk Cousins – Washington Post