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Need to Know: Redskins may have to wait to extend Reed after tagging Cousins

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Need to Know: Redskins may have to wait to extend Reed after tagging Cousins

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 2, seven days before the start of NFL free agency.

Cousins tag will make Reed extension harder to get done

Technically, the Redskins are over the NFL salary cap after officially placing the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. The quarterback tag cap charge puts them over by $6.55 million.

It’s all perfectly legal; they will be in the good graces of Rodger Goodell and John Mara by the time the league years starts on March 9. But Cousins’ cap hit of $19.95 million, or 12.8 percent of the salary cap, will make it difficult to make some moves in free agency and make it hard to hold on to some players the team may want to keep.

One current player who is not a free agent who might be in line for a new contract is tight end Jordan Reed. He helped make Cousins that $20 million this year by leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions in 2015. Reed is in the last year of his rookie contract and will make $1.6 million in 2016.

The team would like to sign him to an extension but that is something that will have to go on the back burner while they attend to some more immediate business.

This doesn’t mean that an extension for Reed can’t get done at some point before the season starts. But it probably means that Cousins will have to get an extension first.

The Redskins and Cousins will continue to negotiate a deal that would supersede the franchise tag contract. Usually such deals have a relative low first-year cap hit. That could create room for the Redskins to squeeze in an extension for Reed.

Here is how it could play out. The Redskins go into the summer with a few million dollars of cap room, just enough to get through the season accounting for players on injured reserve and paying practice squad players. Cousins and the Redskins negotiate right up until the July 15 deadline and come up with a five-year deal that averages $18 million per year. Since the salary cap is going to rise over the course of the contract it is structure to have a relatively low first-year cap hit of $14 million.

That takes $6 million off of the cap. In mid July there are no free agents worth pursuing so the best thing to do is use it to take care of their own. They would start serious negotiations with Reed’s agent and just before the regular season they sign him to a four-year extension worth about $10 million per year, using some of that recently created $6 million to help pay for it.

It will be important for the Redskins at least to get either Cousins or Reed to agree to a long-term deal. They don’t want to get into a situation in 2017 where both Cousins and Reed are free agents. They would only be able to franchise tag one of them and the two players need each other to be successful.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 52 days ago. It will be about 193 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 7; Redskins offseason workouts start 47; 2016 NFL draft 57

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, January 20, 53 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 45
—NFL Draft (4/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 232

The Redskins week that was

Jags big win could spell bad news for Kirk Cousins—If the Jaguars’ accomplishment of getting to the AFC championship game does indeed make Blake Bortles’ job safe, the laws of economics say that the amount of money that Cousins can command in a free agent contract should go down. It’s the demand part of supply and demand and if demand goes down, prices should, too. But the NFL quarterback market doesn’t follow the laws. If the Lions see fit to pay Matthew Stafford, a quarterback under whom they have had very limited success, a contract with an average annual value of $27 million without any team bidding against them, that sets the price.

Setting the odds on what happens with Kirk Cousins—Despite his happy talk at the 106.7 The Fan event earlier this month, the possibility that Cousins will play in a Redskins uniform in 2018 does not warrant a large bet of imaginary casino chips. If you missed the post, take a look and let me know what you think of my assessment.

Don't freak out about latest Zach Brown tweet—It’s that time of year. A player sends out a tweet with no context and fans assign the worst possible meaning to it. In Brown’s case, a tweet about not getting respect was interpreted as a sign that contract negotiations with the Redskins were not going well. But JP Finlay found out that the tweet was about Brown being upset that another alternate getting selected to the Pro Bowl and not him. It still is unclear if Brown will return to the Redskins but at least there are no indications of rocky negotiations at this point.

Bang for the free agent bucks for the Redskins? Brown was a solid free agent acquisition for the Redskins last year. Terrelle Pryor, not so much. Take a look at the post for the other hits and misses in free agency.

Tweet of the week

Even though the draft is over three months away there are plenty of opinions out there as this tweet drew a ton of reaction. On the offensive side of the ball, the suggestions ran towards quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield although some want a running back. It will be interesting to see how those two non-conventional quarterbacks look after they spend the next few months under the microscope of the NFL draft process. The defensive name that kept coming up was Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, a large specimen who could play the nose in base defense and move to three-technique in nickel.

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.

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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a Pro Bowl-type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know, we’re 7-9."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.