Washington and pending free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins were “nowhere near” an agreement on a new contract after the Senior Bowl, sources tell Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Cousins projects to enter free agency on March 9 if no deal is reached, but Washington does have the option to apply the franchise tag.
There’s little doubt that Washington will use the franchise tender if it can’t reach an extension with Cousins, who placed third in the latest edition of our free agent power rankings. In his column today examining candidates for the franchise tag, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe estimated that the quarterback will come in around $19.7MM — that figure would rank 10th among QB annual values league-wide. Cousins is likely the only quarterback who will be franchised, as reports indicate that the Eagles are unlikely to use the tag on Sam Bradford, while the Broncos will likely franchise Von Miller (and not Brock Osweiler).
Washington can franchise Cousins as soon as Tuesday (February 16), and has until March 1 to apply the tag. The two sides would then have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal — if no extension is reached, Cousins would be forced to play until the one-year deal (the salary of which would be fully guaranteed).
After accounting for the impending release of Robert Griffin III, Washington is projected to have roughly $24.5MM in cap space for 2016. The club can make moves to increase that figure — cutting defensive backs Dashon Goldson and DeAngelo Hall, for example, would save Washington another $11.4MM — so fitting Cousins in via the franchise shouldn’t be an issue. It could certainly make things tight, however, so a long-term deal (with a lower year-one cap charge) is probably best from the team’s side.
It remains to be seen whether Cousins will push for a Colin Kaepernick/Andy Dalton extension (low guarantees, large maximum value based on incentives and escalators), or aim for a more traditional deal, including a large signing bonus. Either way, Cousins certainly has an argument his salary floor should be Ryan Tannehill‘s $19.25MM. Subsequently, $20MM annually is probably the starting point in negotiations, with Cousins’ ultimate target being even higher.
Perhaps no player in the league did more over the last four weeks of the regular season to help their stock than Cousins, who completed 74% of his passes for nearly 1,200 yards, while posting a 12:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio to go along with a 134.0 quarterback rating. For the season, Cousins thew 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, led the league in completion percentage, and helped Washington win its first division title since 2012.