The Redskins are thinking about placing the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins so they can trade him in hopes of getting back some of what they traded away to get Alex Smith, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports.
Washington stunned many when on Tuesday it traded away cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick to the Chiefs for Smith, who the team plans to give a four-year extension that will reportedly have an average pay of $23.5 million annually.
Although all signs point to Smith taking over as the starter for the Redskins, that might not stop the team from placing the franchise tag on Cousins for the third consecutive year, according to Schefter. Schefter reports that instead of just taking the 2019 compensatory pick they would get if Cousins left in free agency, the Redskins might try to flip the Pro Bowler for a 2018 pick.
If Washington does place the franchise tag on Cousins, his salary would be approximately $34.5 million for 2018 according to Schefter, and making a trade work could come with some complications. Washington would not be able to trade Cousins until he signs the franchise tag if the team does take this approach, which means Cousins may refuse to sign unless he agrees to go where he could potentially get dealt. Cousins may also hold off on signing the franchise tag if there is no sign he could get a long-term deal that he wants from the team he is possibly traded to. And if the Redskins are unable to deal Cousins after placing the franchise tag on him, his salary would count against their cap.
Teams can begin designating franchise players on Feb. 20. If Washington does not place the franchise tag on Cousins, he will likely draw interest from the Broncos, Jets, Cardinals and others in free agency.
Cousins, 29, will be entering his seventh season in 2018. The fourth-round pick from Michigan State was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in each of his three seasons as the starter in Washington. For his career Cousins has thrown for 16,206 yards and 99 touchdowns with 55 interceptions on 65.5 completion percentage. He has not missed a game in any of the past three seasons.