Redskins place exclusive franchise tag on Kirk Cousins for a second time

The Redskins have used the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins for the second time in as many offseasons, the team announced Tuesday. The move isn’t a surprise given reports that the team isn’t sure about committing franchise-quarterback money to Cousins over the long term, even if that means paying him roughly $24 million in 2017 -- a year after they paid him almost $20 million.

The two sides now have until July 15 to hammer out a long-term deal. If that doesn’t happen -- and it could be a lot more difficult than it should be -- Cousins could be elsewhere next season and Washington will be looking for its third franchise passer since 2012. 

“I want to be where I’m wanted, and if they tag me that tells you that you’re wanted,” Cousins told ESPN 980 during Super Bowl Week, via the team’s website. “They are not going to tag you or commit to you if they don’t want you. So if they tag me then that’s great and it means they want me back. Whether I sign a five-year deal or a one-year franchise tag, I’m going to feel like I’m on a one-year deal every year and have to prove myself week in and week out. If they tag me, great, it looks like I’m wanted. If they don’t then that sends a strong message too and lets go look at our options.”

Those options may include Cousins getting traded out of town. This brings us to the 49ers, where Kyle Shanahan was named coach earlier this month. He coordinated one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses last season in Atlanta, and was the offensive coordinator in Washington when Cousins came into the league five years ago. And according to ESPN.com’s John Keim, there’s only one team Cousins would sign a long-term deal with right now: Yep, San Francisco.

Last week, NFL Network analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah said there was less than a 50/50 chance that Cousins was in Washington next season.

“I don’t think they’re going to be able to get a long-term deal done, and I think there is, I would say, a greater than 50 percent chance that he’s not with the Redskins next year,” Jeremiah told a San Diego radio station, via the Washington Post. “So you’ve got the combine coming up, all these teams will be together. I would not be shocked, at all, if we saw a Kirk Cousins-to-San Francisco trade go down at that point in time. And now you’ve got the dominoes really starting to fall. ...

“From what I hear, they’re not, in [Redskins Park], totally 100 percent sold on Kirk to give him the money that he could get,” said Jeremiah. “So I don’t think they come to a long-term deal, and I don’t think they can really afford to franchise him next year for a third year. So the feeling is hey, if we’re going to move on, we need to get something in exchange for him. And San Francisco would seem like the likely landing spot there. So we’ll see what happens.”

The knock on Cousins is that he struggles with consistency, but he ranked third in total value among all quarterbacks last season, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, behind only Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. But even if Cousins was, say, replacement-level, who would the Redskins replace him with in ‘17?

“If they believe in Colt McCoy like some people believe they do, they make that trade, they end up with the second pick in the draft,” Jeremiah continued. “Might have to part with their own pick, no. 17, but they could wind up with the second pick in the draft. And then they have to decide if they want to draft one of these kids, or whether you go with Colt McCoy and just draft somebody else at that spot.”

For now, the Redskins and Cousins remain on the same side, though tenuously. And who knows, maybe the future quarterback plans don’t involve McCoy at all, but instead will focus on a player the Redskins originally tried to land back in 2009: Jay Cutler.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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