The NFL’s deadline to extend contracts of players who received the franchise tag this offseason has come and gone without a new deal for Kirk Cousins. That means the Washington quarterback is likely playing his last season with the Redskins.
Cousins will be a free agent once again following the 2017 campaign. Washington tagged Cousins to prevent him from leaving the past two years, but franchise tagging him for the third time in a row would cost $34,478,874 in 2018. That’s a very large and inconvenient cap number. Paying Cousins that much would limit Washington’s spending power when it comes to free agent and in-house extensions. It would also make paying Cousins the next offseason even more difficult because Washington likely couldn’t afford tagging him a fourth time.
With the franchise tag likely out of play next offseason, Washington could always try to use the less-expensive transition tag at $28,732,320. But then other teams could sign Cousins to an offer sheet and Washington wouldn’t receive anything in return if they don’t match.
By not re-signing with Washington, Cousins has played this situation masterfully. Assuming he doesn’t totally suck this season, some team is going to pay him a ton of money in free agency next year. Quarterbacks of Cousins’ caliber don’t make it to the open market very often, and there’s a belief that the quarterback-needy San Francisco 49ers could make a hard run at Cousins given his connection to Kyle Shanahan.
All of this is a long way of saying Washington is pretty much screwed at the quarterback position. Either they have to make Cousins the highest paid player in NFL history or lose their starter without having a viable backup plan in place.
Cousins has obviously posted some good numbers in recent years, but the idea of him as the league’s highest paid player is pretty ridiculous. You can dismiss “quarterback winz” all you want, but the fact is he’s 19-21-1 as a starter, 2-11 against teams with nine-plus wins, and 5-13 against teams with eight-plus wins. He hasn’t shown up big in big games. Cousins will be 30 years old by the start of next season, too, so it’s not like he’s a young, ascending player.
In fairness to Cousins, he has had the Eagles’ number. He's 4-1 in five starts against Philadelphia. He completed 63.6% of his passes for 1,579 yards, 12 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 102.9 passer rating in those games.
But now the Eagles might not have to worry about Cousins for much longer. And with Washington projected to not be downright terrible this season, they might not be able to get a great new quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. The only other two passers currently on Washington’s roster include 31-year-old journeyman Colt McCoy and 2016 sixth-round pick Nate Sudfeld.
UPDATE: Washington released some info on their negotiations with Cousins.