The Redskins are pondering the three options they have to start up the process that will either lead to Cousins playing in Washington in 2018 or saying goodbye to their starter for the last three years. These options carry pros and cons that Schaffer, Allen, and Dan Snyder will weigh over the next 46 days until March 6, the deadline for teams to designate transition and franchise tags.
Here are the three most likely options for the Redskins and the pros and cons of each approach:
No tag, let him hit free agency—This would allow Cousins to become a free agent at 4 p.m. on March 14, when the new league years starts. The Redskins could make him an offer and they could ask the Cousins camp to give them an opportunity to match any offer they might be considering. But Cousins would be under no obligation to do so.
Pros: It would end the uncertainty once and for all. When the process is over, Cousins will either be a Redskin in the long term or be playing for another team. This also is the only way the Redskins can qualify for a compensatory draft pick if Cousins does sign elsewhere.
Cons: The most likely outcome is that the Redskins would be starting over at quarterback in 2018, something they are not ready to do. A large segment of the fan base would be angry if the Redskins just let Cousins walk out the door.
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Transition tag: This tag carries a salary of $28.8 million and it allows Cousins to talk to other teams. If he gets an offer sheet from one of them, the Redskins would have five days to match it. If they don’t match, Cousins goes to the other team for no compensation. Another possible outcome could be Cousins signing the tag and staying in Washington for the fully guaranteed $28.8 million salary.
Pros: There also would be a good chance of ending the uncertainty, with Cousins either ending up gone at the end of the process or under a long-term contract in Washington. It also would give Cousins what he wants, the ability to test the open market, while giving the Redskins a shot at keeping him at the same time.
Cons: A team with adequate cap space could front load an offer and make it very difficult for the Redskins to match. There would be no compensation if Cousins left because the Redskins declined to match an offer sheet. And there is the possibility that the QB uncertainty could linger for another year if Cousins signs the tag.
Franchise tag: This tag carries a salary of about $34.5 million. Cousins could not negotiate with other teams as there is no non-exclusive option on a third career franchise tag. At his radio event the week after the season ended, Cousins said that he would just sign the tag and play for the Redskins. They could trade Cousins after he signs the tag, although the salary would make that difficult to do.
Pros: It would virtually assure that the Redskins would have Cousins for 2018. They would have until July 15 to try to negotiate a long-term deal with him.
Cons: You can’t make the case that Cousins, or any player not named Brady or Rodgers, could justify a $34.5 million salary for one year. And since a fourth franchise tag is not permitted, it would almost certainly set up a scenario where Cousins plays one more year and then he is done in DC. That’s not how to get the certainty at the position that Jay Gruden desires.
There is a fourth option, which would be to sign Cousins before the deadline. But earlier this month Cousins said that he would not be interested in doing that; his preference is to wait until March. Perhaps things can change but Cousins was quite definitive in what he said.
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