The free-agent quarterback market will open up in just under a month, when the new league year kicks off on March 14. It recently got a new addition in the form of ex-Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron, but the jewel of the class is still Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins

Assuming he isn't franchise tagged. Everyone analyzing football has been saying that half-heartedly for a few weeks now, ever since Washington traded for Alex Smith. That trade with the Chiefs isn't official yet, but it's going to happen barring something very weird happening.

When the deal goes down, it will be pretty difficult -- and unnecessary -- for the Redskins to try and hold onto Cousins and/or extract value from the quarterback. And yet, there is a lingering sense they may attempt to do just that. Why? Pure "pettiness," apparently.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, tagging Cousins is still on the table because, as one source told him, the Redskins "are in the pettiness game."

"As one source with knowledge of the manner in which Washington president Bruce Allen does business put it, Allen will try to conjure up something in an effort to salvage value for Cousins and, in turn, make it harder for him to hit the open market and finally get the long-term contract he deserves," Florio writes.

In other words, the Redskins have Smith secured as their quarterback of the future and, in the normal course of business, should be looking to just let Cousins walk into free agency. 

But the Redskins, in the past, have not operated under the normal course of business, and the business of Kirk Cousins has been anything but normal. He's performed at a high level for years now and has still yet to receive a legitimate long-term offer from the Redskins. (We can debate the merits of the deal Allen says the team offered Cousins, but it wasn't enough.)

Washington has two avenues here if it wants to be petty. 

One, it can franchise tag Cousins and then attempt to trade him. (Assuming the Redskins don't want to just ruin 2018 by squatting on a huge cap number for their backup quarterback and having a terrible football team.) But if the Redskins franchise tag Cousins, he can mess them up in two ways. One, he could sign the tender immediately, which would result in a $34 million cap hit once the league year begins, which could make it very difficult to pull off the Smith trade and the ensuing new contract Washington has apparently decided to give Smith. 

Cousins could also refuse to sign a long-term deal with anyone interested in trading for him, which would almost guarantee no one would be willing to trade for him.

The Redskins could later rescind the franchise tag in the hopes of ruining Cousins's market value, but, again, it would be partially blowing up their offseason in order to spite Cousins.

Washington could also do a transition tag for Cousins, but that would also be silly. Someone else could sign Cousins to an offer sheet and pry him away, and the Redskins would get no compensation -- either from the team or in the form of a compensatory pick for the loss -- back. 

Transition tagging Cousins would be pure spite and it would cost the Redskins, most likely, a late third-round pick. 

They are going to lose him regardless of what happens and he is going to hit free agency. The Redskins got a division title out of this mess and didn't commit a monster deal to Cousins, but they lost. 

Now the question is whether they will lose with dignity or manage to try and really set the bridge on fire.