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Washington won’t be able to trade Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins admits that money is definitely a factor in his upcoming contract, but won't rule out leaving for a better situation.

After word surfaced that the Chiefs will trade (as of March 14) quarterback Alex Smith to Washington, some suggested that Washington will now trade quarterback Kirk Cousins. Washington won’t, because Washington as a practical matter can’t.

Technically, Washington can trade Cousins. To do that, however, Washington would have to have Cousins under contract when the window for trades reopens, on March 14. So Cousins would have to sign a new contract (not happening) or Washington would have to apply the franchise tag (at more than $34 million for 2018) or the transition tag (at more than $28 million) and Cousins would have to sign it. Then, Washington could trade Cousins to another team that would give Cousins a long-term deal replacing the one-year guarantee under the franchise or transition tag.

As a source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT, those scenarios that would allow Washington to trade Cousins provide zero benefit to Cousins. Indeed, why would he cooperate with Washington to allow Washington to get value for Cousins, when he merely needs to do nothing and become an unrestricted free agent? Washington would be stupid (even by Washington standards) to tag him after striking a tentative deal to trade for Alex Smith, and Cousins would gain nothing by going along with any such approach.

If a team were to give up draft picks or players for Cousins, that team necessarily would pay Cousins less than it would pay him if nothing of value had to be surrendered. Also, Cousins should want to be able to go to a new team that preserves all picks and players, so that he’ll have maximum help around him.

For all those reasons, a trade of Cousins won’t be happening. He’ll instead go wherever he chooses on or after March 14, truly unrestricted by the team that drafted him in the fourth round a full six years ago.