The Washington Redskins have placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins for the second year in a row, and if everything works out, he is going to make a ton of money over the next couple of years.
With the exclusive franchise tag, Cousins cannot negotiate with other teams, but he will get a healthy 20% raise over his 2016 salary and will make $23.9 million in 2017.
According to Albert Breer of The MMQB, Cousins is expected to sign the franchise tender. His willingness to go along with the franchise tag (i.e. accept a one-year contract in lieu of a long-term deal) means that he is one year closer to one of the richest three-year stretches in NFL history.
While the contract will make Cousins one of the highest-paid players in the NFL in 2017, where things will get really interesting is next year.
As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk notes, the Redskins would be highly unlikely to use the franchise tag again in 2018 as it would come with a 44% raise over his 2017 salary, meaning they would have to pay Cousins a $34.5 million salary. Instead, the Redskins could use the transition tag. That comes with a 20% raise and would bump his salary to $28.8 million.
The down side to the transition tag is that Cousins would be free to negotiate a long-term deal with other teams, with the Redskins having the right to match any offer. However, unlike the non-exclusive franchise tag, if the transition tag is used and the Redskins decide not to match another team's offer, Washington would not receive any compensation (a team using the non-exclusive franchise tag would be compensated two first-round draft picks).
If the Redskins do use the transition tag next season and do not sign Cousins to a long-term contract, he would end up making $72.7 million over three seasons (2016-18).
For comparison, Andrew Luck is expected to make $75.0 million in the first three years of his five-year, $123 million contract, which would be the richest three-year stretch in NFL history. Meanwhile, Tom Brady is set to make $44.8 million during the same 2016-18 stretch, and that includes a $28 million signing bonus on his last extension.
Certainly Cousins is at risk of losing more if he is injured or performs poorly. But he seems prepared to take that risk and grab the reward.
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