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Cleveland may make a run at Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins signed a franchise tender with the Redskins, but the future in Washington is increasingly uncertain both on and off the field.

Regardless of whether Kirk Cousins did or didn’t demand or request or whatever a trade from Washington, Cousins may be getting one.

Per a league source, there’s a growing belief in some circles that the Browns will try to acquire Cousins via trade. Another source said that, when Cousins chose to sign his franchise tender last week, the one concern he had is that, after the tender is signed, he can be traded. He specifically was concerned about being traded to Cleveland.

Although it has been reported that Cousins would accept a trade only to the 49ers, his one-year, $23.94 million contract can be traded to the Browns or any other team, if the Browns or any other team is willing to trade for a guy who is under contract for only one year.

The Browns, who have dumped $16 million into a quarterback they’ll never actually put on the field, could easily justify paying $23.94 million to Cousins in 2017, and if necessary to give him a 20-percent raise in 2018 ($28.78 million) via the transition tag. They also would have the opportunity to try to persuade Cousins to sign a long-term deal through July 15.

If they’re willing to absorb Cousins’ contract without a long-term deal, the question becomes whether Cleveland would offer enough to get Washington’s attention via trade. The easiest way to do it would be to dangle the supposed Garoppolo package (No. 12 this year and the second-round pick acquired from Houston in the hot potato Osweiler trade).

How could Washington reject that? For Cleveland, it’s easy to justify the offer; they get a proven quarterback instead of a roll-of-the-dice rookie with the twelfth overall pick, and they give up the extra second-round pick they bought from the Texans.

That doesn’t mean a Cousins-to-Cleveland trade will happen, but it’s on the radar screen. And even though Cousins may not want to be traded to the Browns, it may not be a bad thing. Coach Hue Jackson runs the same offense as Jay Gruden does in Washington, and the expectations in Cleveland are about as low as they could be.

So stay tuned. Cousins may want to go to San Francisco and San Francisco may want him, but if the Browns are willing to stand in Washington’s shoes and at the same time to load Washington up with some picks, Cousins could be the next name on the back of that jersey that carries all the names of the team’s starting quarterbacks since 1999.