The Washington Redskins can place the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins for a second consecutive year starting today. That window remains open until March 1. The tag means no other team can negotiate a contract with Cousins and that the Pro Bowler would receive a one-year salary of $23.94 million if the two sides cannot work out a long-term deal.
Those are the basics. Most of you probably already knew everything stated above. What none of us know definitively is whether the recent talk from coach Jay Gruden and team president Bruce Allen about wanting to keep the two-year starter leads to a deal or not.
There's been so much written and reported on this subject. I'll do my best not to clutter the internet with too many more words.
Get a long-term deal done before March 1 or call Sean McVay in Los Angeles and Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Cousins was already just the second quarterback ever to play on the franchise tag (Drew Brees, 2005). Two years, come on. I think folks overreacting with franchise dysfunction talk over the coaching search and general manager Scot McCloughan's absence from the public stage. Not coming to terms on a long-term deal with the quarterback who essentially rewrote the franchise record book since he took over in 2015, that's weird.
Now, if not sold on Cousins for whatever reason, cool, but then deal him. Now. Before the draft at the least.
Tag Cousins again and there's zero percent chance his side negotiates a new deal. Why would they when a third franchise tag is over $34 million, an amount the neither the Redskins nor any team would pay. That means Cousins becomes a free agent and signs elsewhere next year, period (Sean Spicer voice). Day 2 compensatory pick, yippee.
That's not building towards anything long-term and this team, based on what we know now, isn't a Super Bowl contender in 2017. The defense could use as many as six new starters including an entirely new line. We have no idea who plays on the outside at receiver next season. Maybe the same for running back and left guard. There are some nice assets and the team is coming off back-to-back winning seasons, but 17-14-1 overall. Washington has ample salary cap space, but counting on free agency for THAT MUCH immediate help isn't realistic.
McVay and Shanahan are brand new NFL head coaches and both have ties to Cousins from their time in Washington. The Rams spent the overall No. 1 pick on Jared Goff last season. McVay has no allegiances to Goff* but at least he has some hope at that position. Shanahan has none except the 49ers hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Pit these two against one another in talks. Tag and trade works if needed. Heck, Cousins' camp might help. If Goff improves after a dismal rookie season and the 49ers select Clemson's Deshaun Watson or another quarterback at No. 2, will either want Cousins in 2018?
(* Former NFL agent Joel Corry pondered a scenario on 106.7 The Fan where the Redskins and Rams swap Cousins and Goff as the basis of a trade. With Colt McCoy still around, maybe that deal becomes a viable alternative. Guessing Gruden would want an extension because of the upcoming growing pains.)
Other teams will still need a QB next offseason, but Cousins knows McVay and Shanahan are believers.
If the Redskins don't sign him to a long-term deal, it's clear to all they are not. That's fine, but don't waste anyone's time pretending you're building toward the future in 2017 and don't let him walk for next to nothing in 2018.