Kirk Cousins and the Redskins: A marriage that might be headed for divorce

The Redskins drafted Kirk Cousins in 2012.

For years, the Washington Redskins have been seeking stability at quarterback, signing free agents and orchestrating massive trades trying to accomplish that. And just when the team finally found an answer in Kirk Cousins, it now faces the prospect of losing him as he enters his prime.

After another offseason of failed negotiations on a long-term contract, Cousins will play this season under a $24 million franchise tag. It's the second consecutive year he's been franchised.


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That became official at 4 p.m. ET on Monday, when the deadline for tagged players to sign long-term deals passed. The two sides cannot negotiate again until the offseason.

By then, after months of this hanging over the team and player every week, the storyline should even be more twisted.

There are ways the two sides could still hug and reach a deal after the 2017 season. But if the Redskins wanted that, don’t you think it would be done already?

They can franchise Cousins a third time, but that would cost more than $34 million. A transition tag in 2018 would be roughly $28 million but would allow other teams a much more palatable opportunity to enter negotiations, though Washington could match any offer.

And while Cousins seems to be saying the right things — an ESPN report Sunday said he would be open to negotiating again after the season — don’t you think that now that he has been twice spurned, he'll be ready to move on from the mental baggage this all has wrought?

But should we even be at this point?

It’s certainly to fair to argue that Cousins doesn’t deserve top-of-the-market money. He’s less accomplished than lesser-paid quarterbacks like veterans (and former MVPs) Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan and not regarded as being in the same tier of top young passers like Andrew Luck and Derek Carr, who just received a record-setting contract late last month averaging $25 million annually.

But with escalating quarterback contracts and the rising salary cap, the Redskins were going to have to pay Cousins more than they wanted. And when that deal didn’t happen in 2016 nor again this offseason, it greatly increased the chances someone else might be wooing Cousins in 2018.

The San Francisco 49ers are the most intriguing option, given Cousins’ history and close relationship with new Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, dating back to his time as Cousins’ play caller in Washington. San Francisco's current quarterback depth chart includes journeymen Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley and rookie third-round pick C.J. Beathard.

Other teams will likely be in the market next year as well, from the Arizona Cardinals (with Carson Palmer at the tail end of his career), to the Los Angeles Rams (should Jared Goff falter) and the Cleveland Browns (who are in constant pursuit of their next quarterback).

And with Cousins’ credentials and age (he’ll turn 29 in August), he’ll have plenty of leverage to secure the type of deal Washington wasn’t willing to pay.


Follow Lindsay H. Jones on Twitter @bylindsayhjones

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