As has been the case the previous two offseasons, the Redskins appear in no hurry to sign Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal. In fact, the organization could choose to use the franchise tag for the third straight year, even as coach Jay Gruden acknowledged that he'd prefer not to "go through another one-year" deal with his quarterback.
And neither would Cousins, who told 106.7 The Fan recently that "there's a part of me that would like to get settled."
But should the Redskins choose not to give Cousins a new contract or franchise him to the tune of $34.5 million in 2018, he would become a much-sought-after free agent. And according to TheMMQB.com's Albert Breer, Cousins would "seriously consider" playing for the Browns, an outfit that just put the finishing touches on an 0-16 season and are 1-31 in Hue Jackson's two seasons as coach.
Thanks to a combination of on-field and front-office futility, the Browns will have the first and fourth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after passing on Carson Wentz in 2016 and Deshaun Watson last spring. In the most recent CBSSports.com mock draft, R.J. White has Cleveland taking USC quarterback Sam Darnold first overall and Alabama free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick three picks later.
That would all change should the Browns land Cousins. And while that seems decidedly unlikely for several reasons, Breer notes that the team would consider going all-in on both veteran and rookie quarterbacks.
First, new general manager John Dorsey will likely use those first-rounders to find the team's next franchise quarterback. Free-agent signings and later draft picks haven't worked out; the organization has started 28 different quarterbacks since returning to Cleveland in 1999 and last drafted a quarterback in Round 1 in 2014 when they traded up to grab Johnny Manziel. Prior to that, there was Brandon Weeden (2012, 22nd overall) and Brady Quinn (2007, 22nd overall). Since the Manziel fiasco, the Browns used a 2016 third-round pick on Cody Kessler and a 2017 second-rounder on DeShone Kizer.
By any measure, Cousins would be a substantial upgrade but he'll also be in high demand; the Jaguars, Bills, Cardinals, Broncos and Giants could all be looking for quarterbacks and they're all in better shape than the Browns.
The good news is that Cleveland has tons of salary cap space. According to Spotrac, the Browns are sitting at $109 million in cap space, second only to the 49ers. The bad news is, well, just about everything else from the front-office dysfunction to the constant losing to the roster that can't compete with the 31 other teams.
Wherever Cousins ends up, he'll make north of $25 million a year though the Browns may not have enough money to make it worth his while to come to Cleveland.