Buried among all the coverage of Jaelen Strong's arrest for weed in this morning's Newswire was an article about how Washington is leaning toward using the transition tag (as opposed to the franchise tag) on Kirk Cousins. That's a somewhat risky proposition, as Adam Stites explains.
Why use the transition tag instead of the franchise tag? It's cheaper. Instead of averaging the top five salaries at a position like the franchise tag, the transition tag pays the average of the top 10 salaries, which is a significant difference for a position like quarterback. Instead of getting $19.953 million with the franchise tag, Cousins would instead stand to make $17.696 million under the transition tag.
The transition tag comes with a notable risk, though, and that's that it will allow other teams to negotiate with Cousins without the threat of losing draft picks.
Both the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag allow teams to match any offer made to a tagged player, but if a franchised player is allowed to take a deal from another team without it being matched, the original team is owed two first-round picks.
Thus, in theory, if Cousins is hit with the transition tag, your Houston Texans could sign him to a contract. If Washington chose to match the terms of that contract offer, Cousins would stay in our nation's capital. If the deal negotiated with Houston was too rich for Dan Snyder's blood, or structured in such a way as to make it impractical for Washington to match, however, the Texans would have themselves a 27 year old QB coming off a season where he completed 69.8% of his passes for 4,166 yards, including 29 passing TDs, 5 rushing TDs, and 11 INTs.
Alternatively, if Washington opted to utilize the non-exclusive franchise tag, the Texans could still sign Cousins to an offer sheet, which Washington would still have the right to match. In that scenario, however, should Washington decide not to match, Houston would forfeit their 2016 first round draft pick (No. 22 overall) and their 2017 first round draft pick.
There is also a third possibility, and it's the one I naturally assumed Washington would choose up until Ian Rapoport began reporting that the transition tag was the direction in which Washington was leaning. If Washington elects to use the exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, no other team could negotiate with him.
For the purpose of this post, let's assume that Washington decides to employ the transition tag or the non-exclusive franchise tag. Either would allow Cousins to sign an offer sheet another team, and both would give Washington the opportunity to match. If the brass in Washington decided that it was willing to let Cousins go, the transition tag scenario could see the Texans sign Cousins while keeping all their draft picks, whereas the non-exclusive franchise tag route would give Washington the opportunity to let Cousins walk to Houston for the price of the Texans' first round draft picks in 2016 and 2017.
Under those scenarios, would you want the Texans to try to acquire Kirk Cousins? Maybe you'd be good with it if it didn't cost draft picks. Maybe you'd want Cousins under center in Houston even at the cost of two first round draft picks. Maybe you think Cousins is coming off a fluke season and that the Texans shouldn't pay big money over multiple years to him at this juncture.
What say you? On this Super Tuesday, cast your ballot and expound upon your feelings in the Comments below.
UPDATE: Our friends at Hogs Haven say that Washington placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Kirk Cousins this afternoon. Consequently, that would mean the Texans could still sign Cousins to an offer sheet, which Washington could match; if Washington elected not to match, the Texans (or any other team) would have to send two first round draft picks to Washington.