Washington Puts Franchise Tag On Kirk Cousins

WEDNESDAY, 3:14pm: Cousins plans to sign his franchise tender potentially as soon as this afternoon, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). This would represent a stark contrast from the approaches of last year’s crop of tagged players.

TUESDAY, 2:30pm: Washington has officially filed the paperwork for Cousins’ franchise tag, reports Albert Breer of the NFL Network (Twitter link).

TUESDAY, 12:11pm: Washington will place the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins in advance of today’s 3:00pm central time deadline, reports Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan (Twitter links). According to Paulsen, Cousins will be receiving the non-exclusive franchise tag from the team.Kirk Cousins

[RELATED: PFR previews Washington’s offseason]

The non-exclusive franchise tag for quarterbacks is worth $19.953MM. While that’s about $2.3MM more expensive than the transition tag, Washington apparently decided that it wasn’t worth the risk to potentially lose its starting quarterback without receiving any compensation any return. The transition tag only would have given the team the right of first refusal.

If a rival suitor wants to sign Cousins to an offer sheet after he has been franchised, that club would have to be willing to give up two first-round picks to land him, so the 27-year-old appears likely to remain in D.C., either on a one-year franchise tender or a longer-term deal. The two sides will have until July 15th to work out a multiyear extension.

Cousins became Washinton’s full-time starting quarterback for the first time last season, earning 16 of his 25 career starts in 2015. The four-year veteran finished the regular season on a tear, completing 74% of his passes for nearly 1,200 yards, 12 touchdowns, and a 134.0 quarterback rating over the final four weeks of the year.

That end-of-season run helped Cousins cement his standing as a quarterback Washington couldn’t afford to lose, but his first 12 games weren’t too bad either. For the season, Cousins thew 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, led the league in completion percentage (69.8%), and helped Washington win its first division title since 2012.

As I observed last week in my preview of Washington’s offseason last week, Cousins’ breakout season put the franchise in a difficult spot. The signal-caller’s lack of a track record will likely make GM Scot McCloughan and the rest of the front office hesitant to offer a lucrative, multiyear deal this offseason. However, Washington couldn’t let Cousins reach the open market, where there may have been multiple QB-needy teams ready to make him that kind of long-term offer.

Assigning the franchise tag to Cousins provides Washington with a short-term fix. McCloughan and his team can either work on getting a long-term extension completed with Cousins at a price they’re comfortable with, or have him play out the 2016 season on a one-year franchise deal, giving the club a better sense of his value by 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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