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If Redskins can't get long-term deal done with Kirk Cousins, one option makes most sense

If Redskins can't get long-term deal done with Kirk Cousins, one option makes most sense

Running out of options, the Redskins will need to deploy the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason unless a long-term deal can be reached.

Why? Because nothing else will make sense. 

As the Redskins season nears the final quarter, and thoughts about the franchise’s future come closer into view, the organization must again revisit what to do with Cousins. 

For two straight years, the team used the franchise tag to retain Cousins. In 2016, it cost $20 million. In 2017, it cost $24 million.

In 2018, that figure jumps to a staggering $34 million. 

The $10 million increase is significant, but compared to the other options facing the team, it’s the right path.

RELATED: HOW MANY QBS ARE DEFINITELY BETTER THAN COUSINS? THE LIST IS SHORT

Again, the Redskins should make every effort to get a long-term contract signed with Cousins, but history suggests that will be tough to complete. 

Assuming a deal doesn’t get done by the late February deadline to use a tag, Washington must go with the non-exclusive franchise option. 

Some will argue for the less expensive transition tag. Yes, that carries a lower price tag of nearly $29 million. That $5 million savings, however, amounts to about three percent of the projected salary cap. 

Here's the quick math: This season, Cousins amounts to about 14 percent of the team's $167 million salary cap. Assume the 2018 NFL salary cap comes in around $168 million. The transition tag would eat up about 17 percent of that, the franchise tag would amount to 20 percent. 

That (relatively) minor savings does not warrant losing a franchise passer, and odds are, if the Redskins use the transition tag, Cousins will leave. 

The transition tag basically grants Cousins the opportunity to pursue free agency. He can talk to any NFL team he chooses, and sign an offer sheet. 

The Redskins would have the chance to match any offer sheet, but two problems could arise. First, a team could front-load a contract in a manner that Washington would be unable or unwilling to match. Second, if Cousins signs elsewhere, the Redskins get no compensation. 

By using the non-exclusive tag, Cousins can request permission to negotiate with other NFL teams. Should the Redskins grant permission, and a deal get reached between the QB and another franchise, then the two sides must work out compensation. 

That compensation discussion begins with two first round picks. Losing a franchise passer like Cousins would never be easy, but getting a sizable package of draft picks in return would lessen the blow. 

Remember, too, it’s entirely possible Cousins will not enter into talks about a multi-year contract with the Redskins. That was the route Cousins and his representatives chose during the 2017 offseason.

The quarterback still maintains all the leverage, and throughout this process has talked about his desire to get 'market value' for his services. 

For Bruce Allen and the Washington brass, the priority should be simple: Sign Cousins long-term. If that doesn’t happen, give him the non-exclusive tag and see what happens. 

RELATED: WEEK 12 NFL POWER RANKINGS 

Yes, spending the extra $5 million guaranteed to go from the transition tag to the franchise tag could hinder the Redskins ability to bring back or sign new free agents. Of course. But it's also the only track to guarantee Cousins stays with the team, or if he leaves, the team gets compensation. 

Not all free agent decisions are hits either. For example, Terrelle Pryor will cost the Redskins $6 million this season, and nobody would argue that value was comparable to losing Cousins. Plus, the salary cap will increase again next season, further driving down the overall percentage that Cousins will contribute to the entire Redskins salary base. 

Also, under Allen, the Redskins rarely even use their full salary cap allotment. In 2017, the Redskins came in nearly $3 million under the cap. In 2016, the Redskins were $14 million under the cap, astonishing for a playoff contender.

The absolute worst case scenario would be to again pay Cousins for a one-year deal, and lose him to free agency in 2019. Unfortunately for Redskins fans, that worst case scenario remains very much in play.

Don't for a second think that just because the 49ers might have located their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo that there will be less interest in Cousins on the open market. There are never enough quarterbacks in the NFL, and Cousins play in 2017 suggests he belongs in the conversation among the league's best passers. Plenty of teams will open up the bank vault for a shot at the Redskins passing yards record holder.

Working out a long-term deal with Cousins should be the goal in Washington this offseason, but the non-exclusive franchise tag should absolutely be the contingency plan. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!