Monday, July 17 was an important day for players who signed franchise tenders with their teams this offseason. It was the deadline for those teams and players to agree to long-term deals. Instead, the deadline passed and nothing happened. Kirk Cousins, Le'Veon Bell, and Truman Johnson did not sign long-term extensions.
Both Cousins and Johnson will play under the franchise tag for the second consecutive year. Bell hasn't signed his franchise tender, so he's not under contract with the Steelers. He could continue to hold out or sign the tender that would pay him $12.1 million in 2017.
Teams use the franchise tag to lock up a free-agent player for one season. The player earns a one-year, fully guaranteed salary based on the average salary of the five highest-paid players at his position (or 120 percent of his current salary, whichever is higher). For teams, the tag is a way to give them more time to negotiate a long-term deal with a critical player rather than see him walk away in free agency.
Here’s a more thorough overview of how the tag works and how much tagged players are scheduled to get paid.
This offseason, Le’Veon Bell, Kirk Cousins, Chandler Jones, Kawann Short, Trumaine Johnson, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Melvin Ingram each got the franchise tag from their respective teams. Everyone but Bell, Cousins, and Johnson signed a long-term deal before the deadline.
The Pittsburgh Steelers used the tender on Bell in February, but the two-time Pro Bowler still hasn't signed it. In June, Bell decided to skip Pittsburgh’s mandatory minicamp due to contract negotiations, but the league couldn't fine him for it because he technically wasn't under contract with a team.
This will be the second consecutive year that Cousins is playing under a Washington franchise tender. He signed the tender right away and participated in offseason workouts.
Head coach Jay Gruden was “optimistic” that a deal could get done. However, it would have to be a blockbuster — one that would likely supplant Derek Carr’s contract which could average as much as $25 million per year. An agreement is still considered a “long shot,” even with Cousins insisting that it’s not about the money.
Here’s the latest on all of the players who were issued franchise tags by teams this offseason.
Who signed a long-term deal?
Melvin Ingram, LB, Los Angles Chargers
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
Pierre-Paul said he wasn't going to sign another one-year deal because he wanted a long-term extension. So the Giants came to terms with the two-time Pro Bowler by signing him to a four-year, $62 million deal in March. Now, Pierre-Paul joins fellow teammate Olivier Vernon as the two highest-paid 4-3 defensive ends in the league, according to Over The Cap.
Chandler Jones, LB, Arizona Cardinals
After racking up 49 tackles and 11 sacks in 2016, the Cardinals placed Jones on a non-exclusive tag in February. Less than a month later, the one-time Pro Bowler and Arizona came to terms on a five-year, $83 million extension, making him the third-highest-paid 3-4 outside linebacker behind Von Miller and Justin Houston, according to Over The Cap.
Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers
Short is considered one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league, racking up 22 sacks over a four-year span. Carolina applied the tag to the one-time Pro Bolwer in February. But like Jones, Pierre-Paul, and Ingram, it didn't take long for Short to sign an extension, as the Panthers and Short agreed on a five-year, $80 million deal. Short joined Ndamukong Suh and Fletcher Cox as the highest-paid 4-3 interior linemen, according to Over The Cap.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell is a key part of the Steelers offense, but — like every player — he wants to be compensated fairly for his efforts. Bell stands to make $12 million under the tag this season, which is substantially more than LeSean McCoy, the second-highest-paid running back in the league, who averages just over $8 million per year on his deal.
Bell was conspicuously absent during the team’s mandatory minicamp, but he’s recovering from groin surgery and he’s not actually under contract until he signs the tag or works out a long-term deal. An April 1 tweet suggested Bell was ready to sit out the season rather than play under the tag, but it was an April Fools’ Day joke. Bell is too important to the Steelers for the team to risk him walking away after this season.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
This is Cousins’ second year under the franchise tag with Washington, and negotiations between the quarterback and the team went slowly this offseason. Washington reportedly offered Cousins a deal in the $20 million per year range, according to The Washington Post’s Master Tesfatsion. But if Cousins plays under the tag for a second consecutive season, he’ll make about $24 million this year and could have the opportunity to score a big payday with another team in free agency next year.
It’s possible that Dan Snyder will push for a long-term deal for Cousins out of spite. Lingering bad blood between Snyder and new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan may give Snyder extra motivation to ensure Cousins doesn’t end up in San Francisco.
However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that it’s likely Cousins will play this season under the tag and that both Cousins and the team were “OK” if that happens.
Trumaine Johnson, CB, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams used the franchise tag on Johnson in two consecutive seasons. ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez said the Rams want to see if Johnson could play in Wade Philips’ defensive scheme before offering the 27-year-old a long-term extension. There were also reports that the Rams were trying to trade Johnson, but Ian Rapoport said Johnson will stay put in 2017.
Johnson missed a week of OTAs because of personal reasons, not a contract dispute, according to The Los Angeles Times’ Gary Klein.
“Right now, I’m happy to be here and playing ball. I’m controlling what I can control. When that contract stuff comes up, I’ll handle it,” Johnson told Klein.