WASHINGTON — Ten days ago, in the afterglow of Super Bowl LII, NFL insider Adam Schefter floated a devious report: the Redskins could try to tag and trade Kirk Cousins instead of letting him hit free agency.
“Tagging and trading” is commonplace in the NBA, where players enjoy creating super teams and the process benefits all sides–the player chooses his team, that team gets the player that it wants, and the (small market) team ends up with some sort of consolation prize as the heart of the franchise leaves.
The economics are different in the NFL, and so too are the unwritten rules.
According to Albert Breer’s article for MMQB, if the Redskins pursue hindering Cousins’ access to free agency, his representatives intend to raise to fuss. Here’s the report:
By the way, if the Redskins attempt to franchise Cousins, my understanding is that his camp will quickly file a grievance to block tag, based on Washington violating the spirit of the rules, which dictate that players are tagged as a mechanism for teams to buy time in getting a long-term deal done.
The franchise tag was created to give teams time and leverage in negotiating with an elite player ready to leave. All too often, tags secondarily serve as a bridge contract after the deadline passes to work out a long-term deal.
The rule books does not explicitly say that teams or players must negotiate in good faith, and it’s possible that this year is payback for how negotiations ended last year.
As the story goes, the Redskins tagged Cousins and extended a long-term offer to Cousins at the beginning of last offseason. Team Cousins sat on the offer, content to play out 2017 on a one-year deal.
The Redskins detailed this narrative at the end of the negotiating period, spelling it out in an unusual statement by team president Bruce Allen. In response, Cousins didn’t refute the story and didn’t seem upset that he was being called out.
Perhaps Cousins knew at the time that no matter how 2017 went, he would be playing somewhere else in 2018. Perhaps the Redskins are using the threat of tagging and trading in order to make him sweat. Perhaps his representatives know that he has little recourse beyond arguing about the “spirit of the rules.”
But if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that even if the Kirk Cousins Era is over in Washington, the headlines have no end in sight. And for whatever reason, the Redskins aren’t going to let him leave without a fight.