Monday, July 17th is an important date for the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins. Those three teams slapped the franchise tag on Trumaine Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Kirk Cousins respectively in the off-season. If they don’t sign them to long-term deals by 4 PM ET, they’ll play under the tag in 2017.
It’s a fairly lucrative setup for the players in question. Absent an extension, they receive a one-year, fully guaranteed contract that has to meet certain criteria related to the pay of top players at their position in the league. Both Johnson and Cousins decided to take this course of action rather than sign a multi-year pact last year.
In so doing, the two made close to $34 million combined (Johnson: $13.952 million; Cousins: $19.951 million). That number jumps quite a bit this year, with Johnson slated to make $16.742 million and Cousins $23.944 million if they don’t come to an agreement with their respective teams. Bell will pull in over $12 million in the same situation.
With less than 24 hours until the deadline, all three players seem headed towards playing under the franchise tag. Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, there appears to be disagreement within the Redskins front office as to Cousins’ value. In Johnson’s case, sources made it pretty clear to Florio that a long-term extension is highly unlikely. And Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Monday that Bell and the Steelers remain apart in negotiations.
For Cousins, it’s pretty easy to see why he may be reticent to inking a deal with the Redskins beyond 2017. Schefter indicated that the franchise tag numbers for quarterbacks will surge in 2018, exceeding $34 million. He also said per a source that Cousins is open to a long-term extension with the team after the season.
But there are rumors that Kyle Shanahan wants to bring him to the Bay Area. The first-year San Francisco 49ers head coach was Cousins’ offensive coordinator for his first two seasons in Washington. The team’s quarterback situation is as uncertain as any team in the league with Brian Hoyer the likely starter this year.
There’s no doubting the talent of all three players. Johnson played in 14 games last year and finished with 11 pass breakups which was tied with Alec Ogletree for the lead among Rams players. Cousins was one of just three NFL signal callers to pass for over 4,900 yards in 2016. And only two running backs averaged over 100 yards rushing last season: Bell and Ezekiel Elliott.
Regardless of what happens, the late afternoon of an otherwise mundane midsummer Monday carries above average intrigue for NFL fans. Having said that, don’t expect much from the standpoint of surprises. These three talented players at their respective positions will likely bet on themselves in 2017 while hitting the open market in free agency a year later…unless, of course, they get tagged again.