The beginning of free agency on March 9 is just over three weeks away, but the Redskins and the most valuable unsigned player in the NFL, quarterback Kirk Cousins, still haven’t made progress toward a long-term agreement, reports Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Talks between the two sides are poised to “intensify” over the next couple weeks, according to Jones.
Redskins president Bruce Allen said last month that the club’s goal is to lock up Cousins for the long haul, but doing so might cost in the neighborhood of $90MM and $110MM – including $50MM to $60MM in guarantees – on a four- to five-year contract, posits Jones. If that’s too big a commitment for Washington, whose brass has differing opinions on Cousins, it could place the franchise tag on the 28-year-old as early as Wednesday and no later than March 1.
The Redskins tagged Cousins at $19.95MM last season, and doing so again this winter would cost them $23.94MM. The likelihood is that the Redskins would use the non-exclusive tag on Cousins, adds Jones, which would enable the five-year veteran to negotiate with other teams. Should someone sign Cousins to an offer sheet, that club would have to send two first-round picks to the Redskins as compensation. That would perhaps be an unpalatable price to pay for bottom-feeding teams like the 49ers and Browns, both of whom have been connected to Cousins this offseason.
For the Redskins, losing the highly productive Cousins would lead to a significant short-term downgrade under center, as Jones writes that the team would seriously consider turning to backup Colt McCoy as a stopgap as it grooms an early round signal-caller behind him. Cousins’ departure could also deter free agents from signing with the Redskins this offseason, per ESPN.com’s John Keim, who notes that “multiple agents” around the league want their clients to join the team if the QB stays in the fold.
It’s easy to see why Cousins is regarded highly by his colleagues: In his two years as a starter, he has helped the Redskins to plus-.500 seasons – including a 9-7, NFC East-winning showing in 2015 – while flourishing statistically. Cousins is coming off a year in which he completed 67 percent of passes, nearly reached the 5,000-yard mark (4,917), and tossed 25 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.
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