For the second year in a row, the Washington Redskins used the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. Unlike last year, however, Washington applied the exclusive version of the franchise tag to Cousins this time around. This means he’s set to make at least $24 million in 2017.
This news has good and bad implications for the Philadelphia Eagles. Let's break it down.
Why Washington tagging Cousins is bad news for the Eagles
• For as much as I like to poke fun at Kurt Coupons, he does play pretty well against the Eagles. He's 4-1 in five starts against Philly. Take a look at his splits against the Birds: 63.59% completion for 1,579 yards, 12 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 102.9 passer rating. The Eagles haven't been able to beat Washington since the 2014 season. Their struggles might continue with Cousins staying in the division.
Why Washington tagging Cousins is good news for the Eagles
I'd argue the good news outweighs the bad news for the Eagles.
• First, Washington is paying Cousins $24 million in 2017. $24 million! Only Andrew Luck ($24.6 million) and Drew Brees ($24.3 million) have a higher average annual value. Cousins has posted some good numbers down in Washington, yes. But he's just not an elite quarterback. He struggles to help Washington beat good teams and he's come up really small in some big moments. Washington got demolished in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. With the post-season on the line in what was a meaningless game for the Giants, Cousins mightily struggled against New York's defense.
Kirk Cousins against the Giants when NYG had nothing to play for:— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 2, 2017
22/35, 285 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 74.1 ratinghttps://t.co/X0Q5luDecO
Kirk Cousins’ starting record: 19-21-1— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 2, 2017
Cousins’ record against teams with 9+ wins: 2-11
Teams with 8+ wins: 5-13https://t.co/8g1soNsA5E
• The most common refrain I hear to my criticism of Cousins is that "QB WINZ AREN'T A REAL STAT!" Look, I'm not trying to say Cousins is downright terrible. Again, he's posted some good numbers. But I'm just not convinced he's worth the elite quarterback money he's making. Elite quarterbacks beat good teams and come up big in big moments.
• I'm not the only one who isn't convinced Cousins is as good as some suggest. His own team doesn't believe in him! If they truly did, they would have signed him to a long-term deal by now. To his credit, Cousins realizes this, too. And that partially explains why the 28-year-old quarterback reportedly doesn't want to sign a long-term deal in Washington, either. How does it feel to cape for a quarterback who doesn't even want you, Washington fans?
• Washington is pretty screwed in the long-term. Cousins holds all the leverage over the organization. Washington can't tag Cousins for a third time because that would cost $35 million in 2018. There's no reason for Cousins to settle for less because he could potentially get significant offers if he makes it to the market. He's often been connected to his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who now coaches the San Francisco 49ers. Washington is likely going to have to make Cousins the highest paid player in NFL history in order to work out a long-term deal with him. And that's something they're clearly not comfortable doing based on their past behavior, but they might not have any other choice.
• Tagging Cousins causes Washington to lose a large $24 million chunk of cap space. Washington still has $35 million to work with, so it's not like they're totally screwed, but it could impact their free agency plans. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon are both scheduled to be free agents. A big reason why Cousins has been so success is because he's had a great cast of weapons to work with (much unlike Carson Wentz). We'll see how Cousins performs if/when he loses some of his weapons.
Eagles fans will be able to appreciate Washington's dilemma more if Philadelphia can actually start to beat them once again. In the meantime, Eagles fans can at least take solace in Washington limiting their team's ceiling by giving elite quarterback money to a quarterback who isn't elite.