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Need to Know: Redskins may have to wait to extend Reed after tagging Cousins

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Need to Know: Redskins may have to wait to extend Reed after tagging Cousins

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 2, seven days before the start of NFL free agency.

Cousins tag will make Reed extension harder to get done

Technically, the Redskins are over the NFL salary cap after officially placing the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. The quarterback tag cap charge puts them over by $6.55 million.

It’s all perfectly legal; they will be in the good graces of Rodger Goodell and John Mara by the time the league years starts on March 9. But Cousins’ cap hit of $19.95 million, or 12.8 percent of the salary cap, will make it difficult to make some moves in free agency and make it hard to hold on to some players the team may want to keep.

One current player who is not a free agent who might be in line for a new contract is tight end Jordan Reed. He helped make Cousins that $20 million this year by leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions in 2015. Reed is in the last year of his rookie contract and will make $1.6 million in 2016.

The team would like to sign him to an extension but that is something that will have to go on the back burner while they attend to some more immediate business.

This doesn’t mean that an extension for Reed can’t get done at some point before the season starts. But it probably means that Cousins will have to get an extension first.

The Redskins and Cousins will continue to negotiate a deal that would supersede the franchise tag contract. Usually such deals have a relative low first-year cap hit. That could create room for the Redskins to squeeze in an extension for Reed.

Here is how it could play out. The Redskins go into the summer with a few million dollars of cap room, just enough to get through the season accounting for players on injured reserve and paying practice squad players. Cousins and the Redskins negotiate right up until the July 15 deadline and come up with a five-year deal that averages $18 million per year. Since the salary cap is going to rise over the course of the contract it is structure to have a relatively low first-year cap hit of $14 million.

That takes $6 million off of the cap. In mid July there are no free agents worth pursuing so the best thing to do is use it to take care of their own. They would start serious negotiations with Reed’s agent and just before the regular season they sign him to a four-year extension worth about $10 million per year, using some of that recently created $6 million to help pay for it.

It will be important for the Redskins at least to get either Cousins or Reed to agree to a long-term deal. They don’t want to get into a situation in 2017 where both Cousins and Reed are free agents. They would only be able to franchise tag one of them and the two players need each other to be successful.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 52 days ago. It will be about 193 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 7; Redskins offseason workouts start 47; 2016 NFL draft 57

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Don't count out a 3rd straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

Don't count out a 3rd straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

For the second straight season the Redskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. While the two sides are speaking amicably about a long-term deal, the July 15 deadline for those negotiations continues to inch closer without much expectation that contract will get signed. 

A second year on the tag is unprecedented for a quarterback. In 2016, Cousins made nearly $20 million playing on the tag. In 2017, that figure goes up to $24.

If the Redskins don't get a deal done with Cousins, many think the organization would not again go with the franchise tag because the price tag jumps to an exorbitant $34 million. 

Think again. 

Asked on Monday if another franchise tag would be an option for Cousins in 2018, Redskins team president Bruce Allen was clear.

"Yes," he said. "In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract."

Those options include the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Both franchise tags carry the same cost, but the non-exclusive allows Cousins' representatives to shop his services around the NFL. If a deal gets struck, and the Redskins don't match the contract, Washington is due two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their franchise player. 

The transition tag carries a $28 million price tag, and the Redskins can match another contract but risk only receiving a possible 2019 third-round compensatory pick if Cousins walks.

Considering those options, another year on the non-exclusive tag might make sense. The NFL salary cap will be at least $168 million, which means Cousins at $34 million would account for about 20 percent of the Redskins' salary cap.

That's a crazy allotment for one player. Crazy. The Redskins do have about $54 million in cap space for 2018, so technically, another franchise tag could work. 

But the entire manner of the contract dealings with Cousins and the Redskins has been quite unconventional. The Redskins have already made history by franchising Cousins a second-straight year. 

"I think even Kirk said it, there’s a lot of players round the league who are on a one-year deal. It’s the nature of it, we’d like to get him a long-term deal and I think he should want to get one," Allen said. "Kirk’s played well on a one-year contract the last two seasons."

At this point, it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to understand that the Redskins and Cousins have a different picture of the quarterback's long-term value. That could change by July 15th, it could, but it doesn't seem likely. The Cousins camp has little incentive to bend, as $24 million fully guaranteed for 2017 represents a great payday.

And maybe the Redskins don't plan on bending because the option of a third-straight franchise tag doesn't worry them. Or at least the option of letting Cousins shop his services on a non-exclusive tag, and then making a decision to match a deal or receive compensation seems a worthwhile endevaor. 

For Cousins, he's not counting out any possibility. 

"People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row," Cousins said to an ESPN podcast in March. 

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

MORE REDSKINS: Allen says new stadium ahead of schedule 

OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.