BY JEREMY FIALKOW (@JeremyFialkow)
The Redskins are officially on the clock.
The organization has 17 days left to reach an agreement with Kirk Cousins on a contract extension before the quarterback's 2016 franchise tag locks in.
The tag would guarantee Cousins a $19.95 million contract for one year, and ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter believes the Redskins are going to have to pay up.
Reaching a deal before the July 15 deadline is "too difficult to do," Schefter told ESPN 980AM on Wednesday, via the Washington Post.
Schefter speculates that the 27-year-old will play under the tag and —in essence — bet on himself this season, while earning nearly $20 million in the process.
"If [Cousins] comes in a plays well this year," Schefter said, "there will be a team like the Houston Texans out there that's willing to pay him like they did Brock Osweiler: 4 years, $76 million, $38 million guaranteed."
You may remember Osweiler as the man who stepped in place of a benched then injured Peyton Manning for eight games during the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl-winning campaign last season.
Say Cousins doesn't sign an extension in the next two weeks and does perform to the best of his ability in 2016, the quarterback could fetch around $60 million guaranteed in a brief two-year span.
"Next offseason, when the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns and the Arizona Cardinals need a quarterback, they're going to pay [Cousins] well north of what the Texans paid Osweiler.
Schefter put himself in the shoes of the Redskin's quarterback, saying, "I'm going to bet on myself because I've never had a chance to lead this team ... In my third year in Jay Gruden's system with the weapons I have surrounding me, I'm going to play pretty well."
That suddenly-capable Washington receiving corps is headlined by three-time Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, who led all Redskins recievers with 72 receptions in 2015. The team then went out and selected former TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Cousins, who was drafted by Washington in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft — three rounds after ex-Redskin Robert Griffin III went No. 2 overall — is coming off a dominant 2015 season, where he cemented his status as starting quartback by throwing for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns, while leading his team to their first playoff appearence in three years.
Regardless of whether the Redskins reach an agreement with their quarterback, one thing remains clear: Cousins played himself into a heck of a payday.
Listen to Schefter's full interview here.