Pending contract talks with Kirk Cousins will not only impact the Redskins salary cap, they will also impact the desire of free agent wide receivers looking to join the Burgundy and Gold.
That's the word from multiple sources as Washington brass again enters negotiations with Cousins after he played the 2016 season under the franchise tag.
It's understandable why receivers want to see what unfolds at QB for the Redskins.
With Cousins, the Redskins run a dynamic, pass-first offense capable of moving the ball among the best teams in the league. Should Cousins leave via free agency, it's unknown what happens for Jay Gruden's 2017 offense.
While it seems likely Cousins would at least return for 2017 under another franchise tag, if that doesn't happen, would the team turn to backup Colt McCoy? Bring in a veteran starter to compete with McCoy? Has rookie Nate Sudfeld developed to a point where he could compete? Questions like these make for uneasy conversations among wideouts looking at options.
The Redskins not only need to make decisions with their own free agent receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, but the team also has shown interest in free agent Kenny Britt, recently of the Rams. Sources indicate Britt would be interested in Washington if Cousins is the quarterback, but the 29-year-old has at least seven other interested teams should the Redskins QB situation not get resolved before free agency opens.
Jackson's return to Washington seems unlikely, as he will probably command more money than Garçon or Britt.
ESPN's John Keim reported that Garçon will not play for less than the $7.6 million he made this season, and sources have said Britt expects to make anywhere from $8 million to $12 million per season in a multi-year deal.
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All three pass-catchers had strong seasons in 2016, all eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark. Among the trio, Britt is two years younger than Garçon and Jackson, who will both turn 31 this season, and bigger. Britt goes 6-foot-3 while Garçon is 6-foot and Jackson 5-foot-10. Neither Britt nor Garçon can touch Jackson's speed, and few players in the NFL can match Garçon's toughness.
That said, Britt raised eyebrows around the NFL getting to 1,000 yards on an awful Rams team that suffered with poor quarterback play and a prehistoric offensive system.
Another franchise tag for Cousins would not necessarily solve the Redskins issue with free agent receivers, at least long-term. Like all players, wideouts want multi-year deals, and a 2017 tag on Cousins makes it highly possible that Washington needs a new quarterback in 2018.
Fans need to deal with the possibility that neither Jackson nor Garçon could return to Washington. It might not happen, but it certainly could. Much of that will be determined by money, but the contract status of Cousins will be a factor.
For wideouts, Washington is an attractive destination with Cousins. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.
Without him, the landscape looks quite different.
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