The current scoreboard regarding reports that Washington will use the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins in 2017 is 2-1, with Adam Schefter of ESPN recently joining Jason La Canfora of CBS in claiming that the team is likely to apply the tag if a long-term deal isn’t reached and Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reporting that the team is unlikely to use the tag.
The truth is this: The team hasn’t decided what to do, and it won’t make a decision until the season ends.
There are simply too many variables that remain unresolved to allow the team to finalize a plan during the season. The team could crater down the stretch and miss the playoffs. The team could make the playoffs. The team could win the Super Bowl with Cousins being named the MVP, which would give him Joe Flacco-style leverage for a top-of-the-market deal.
Also, the team could decide to pursue one of the other veteran quarterbacks who may be available, saving some of the $23.94 million that the franchise tag would cost in 2017 and using it on other players. G.M. Scot McCloughan previously has stressed the importance of having enough cap space to address the rest of the roster; if Cousins insists on top dollar under circumstances that don’t compel the team to pay it (i.e., if Washington doesn’t win the Super Bowl and he’s not named the game’s MVP), Washington could decide to go in a different direction.
It’s also possible that Washington would tag Cousins and trade him. However, the team that acquires him would have to be willing to give him a long-term deal with the franchise tag as the starting point. With $23.94 million due in 2017 and a 44-percent raise due under the third application of the tag in 2018 ($34.47 million), that’s $58.41 million fully guaranteed over the first two years of the contract.
Washington also could tag Cousins as a placeholder and then rescind it if they find someone cheaper. The flaw in that logic is that Cousins surely would sign the tender quickly, preventing it from being removed. Thus, as a practical matter, Washington will need to have a clear and firm plan by the time the window closes for applying the tag in March.
For now, the only real news is that there’s no news. The team hasn’t made a decision about what to do with Cousin and won’t make a decision until after the season has ended.