PHOENIX — The Washington Redskins haven’t abandoned hope for signing quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal, which team president Bruce Allen stressed once more Sunday night. Cousins holds the leverage now in terms of money, but Allen said they still have future options.
Of course, that means this could drag into next offseason as well.
One slight risk for Cousins now is that his preferred destination, San Francisco, could end up with another quarterback in the draft. If taken with a high pick, that’s the guy the 49ers would have to view as their future quarterback. And that would remove them from the Cousins chase. That doesn’t mean another team wouldn’t appeal to Cousins, if free next offseason.
Keep this in mind if the Redskins tag Cousins next year: His side can now point to future tags as part of their leverage in terms of compensation. That would end next year. However, they can point to something else as leverage: absolute freedom in 2019. If Cousins plays well this upcoming season, that’s a real threat.
It’s to Cousins’ benefit to wait at this point (which is good because a long-term deal isn’t close). See how the franchise responds after an 8-7-1 record in terms of success. See how the front-office situation shakes out and the direction the franchise will go. See how things are with Jay Gruden calling plays. Cousins felt in sync with Sean McVay the past two years. Cousins can win by playing the waiting game at this point. The Redskins seem to think they can, too.
Here are the Redskins’ 2018 options:
Franchise tag: It’s hard to imagine this being a realistic solution. If the Redskins tagged him for a third consecutive year, it would cost approximately $34.5 million. Let’s say the salary cap increases to $175 million — Cousins would then occupy nearly 20 percent of the space. That’s way too much for one guy. Cousins clearly is OK with the tag, and if he did it a third time, he would have made approximately $78 million in three years. The Redskins could have locked him up for five or six years last offseason with that kind of cash. Why pay that sum for three years? Of course, using the franchise tag again would enable Washington to perhaps explore a trade.
Transition tag: This has been floated as a possible scenario, but there are problems. It’s cheaper than the franchise tag, at approximately $28 million. That’s fine. But if another team makes him an offer and the Redskins fail to match? Then they receive no compensation in return — not even a compensatory pick. Of course, this would allow Cousins and the Redskins to gauge his true market with the ability to match any offer.
If no offer is made and Cousins plays under the transition tag, he still would have made approximately $72 million in three years.
Let him test the market: This is a roll of the dice no doubt. But what if the 49ers do get another quarterback (and what if Jared Goff develops in Los Angeles under McVay)? Then two primary landing spots would be removed. Regardless, the Redskins and Cousins could gauge his market, and he’d receive a contract more in line with his standing among quarterbacks. For Cousins, it would come after having made $44 million in guaranteed cash so he’d be in line for another big payday. For the Redskins, if they were able to convince him to stay, they still would have paid a lot of money in the prior two years to get him at what they’d consider his true market.
The other part is, both sides might just want to part ways after next year. The Redskins would have had (potentially) three years of good quarterback play but feel just as strong about other options. Cousins might (will?) just reach the point where he wants out; it’s safe to say he knows had Robert Griffin III put up similar numbers, he’d have already been signed.
Former general manager Scot McCloughan was rather high on Nate Sudfeld throughout the offseason and in training camp, predicting he’d become a starter within a couple years. Another year of Cousins would allow the team to see if he indeed could make that jump. It’s far from a slam dunk, however. Some of this, too, will depend on the rest of the roster, if they’re finally making progress on both sides. In that case, another quarterback would be stepping into a better situation than what Cousins had the past two years (with a struggling defense; the offensive talent, of course, was excellent). The Redskins would then receive a third-round compensatory pick in 2019.
The options aren’t necessarily great and in some cases will be costly, either in money or the loss of a good quarterback. But it’s the one way the Redskins hope to control the situation.