Eric Berry, Kirk Cousins, and The Franchise Tag

By John Bernardo
Feb. 03, 2017

I hate the franchise tag. According to The NFL, the franchise tag is defined as "the franchise tag is a designation a team may apply to a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. ... Each team only has one franchise tag (of either the exclusive or non-exclusive forms) and one transition tag per year." To me, that's a load of shit.

Let's look at Kirk Cousins. Cousins is the quarterback for the Washington Redskins. The Washington team. The Washington Skins. The Washington Football team. Whatever you want to call them. Do we have to be politically correct anymore? Now that our President is one of the least politically correct people I can think of off the top of my head. I mean that literally and figuratively. Anyway.

Pro Bowl QB, Kirk Cousins
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins played under the franchise tag from 2015-2016. This year Washington can re-tag him. What's messed up about this is Kirk Cousins can't become a free agent. I don't like it. Kirk has played well these past two years. What if he tears his ACL this year? Suffers a concussion? Suffers a career threatening injury? He'll have played on his rookie contract, his first franchise tag, and his second franchise tag. (The second tag is known as the transition franchise tag). 

So how does the tag work? Well, the team assigns it to one player on their roster a year. Kirk does not get to choose if he wants a long term contract or not. He can't say, "Pay me a long term deal or I'm leaving". Kirk's only option is to sign for the tag or sit out the entire season. What are we not rewarding guys who play well?

Because this is the NFL. The NFL lags behind basketball and baseball. They have the weakest union, the richest owners, the weakest Collective Bargaining Agreement, the worst non-guarnteed contracts and more. NFL players are at the most risk, (of NFL, NBA, and MLB players) and many of the contracts in the league are voided due to injury. Moreover NFL players have little rights once they've signed their contracts. I get it, signing a contract is a binding agreement which is signed between the player and the team. But some of these guys outperform their expectations to such a degree they deserve a better contract. Yet most NFL teams won't upgrade said contract. So what options does an NFL player have? Sit out. Hold out. 

J.J.Watt
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

However if they do that they could be subject to a fine. Could you imagine if your job fined you for not showing up? Literally took money out of your paycheck. Yeah they could fire you, but they'll take the money which you worked for as well. I get it. The NFL needs a stronger union, more planning and organization among the players and the union in order to hold out for a better deal, go on strike etc. But most of these guys aren't Tom Brady or J.J. The players will never be strong enough to stand up to billionaire owners. When you try to negotiate with the owners you will fail. These are the 1% of the 1%. Clearly they know how to make money and negotiate. 

So what is a guy like Kirk Cousins supposed to negotiate? He's played as well as anyone could ask for. He was drafted in the fourth round. He's outplayed and outlast many first round picks. He's better than 50% of the QB's in the NFL. He's thrown 72 TD's to 42 INT's. He's been healthy. He doesn't complain. He's what you want out of your QB. Is he a star? No. But he's improving, he's franchise material and a lot of other teams would be happy to have him as their QB. 

Cousins is just one player. The franchise tag affects guys on every team every year. The tag is a way for teams to prolong signing guys to more money. I don't feel bad for Cousins. He made 19 million dollars last year. If he did get hurt that 19 million was guaranteed. Yet while I don't feel bad for him I don't think it's fair either. He's put together a decent body of work, the man deserves to get paid for the work he put in. 

Justin Tucker
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Tucker K, Alshon Jeffery WR, Muhammed Wilkerson DE, Cordy Glenn OT, Josh Norman CB, Olivier Vernon DE, Von Miller DE, Kirk Cousins QB, Trumaine Johnson CB, and Eric Berry were all tagged. Notice something? Yeah, they're all really good football players. These guys deserve to get long term deals. Why is the NFL avoiding deals for the top tier talent? Pay these guys NFL, they deserve it.