Kirk Cousins has been slapped with the exclusive franchise tag by Washington, which means he’ll make a ridiculous $23.94 million in 2017. The two sides could attempt to work out a long-term deal, but Washington’s best option would be finding a trade partner to take Cousins off the team’s hands.
Ian Rapoport is reporting Washington has no intention of trading Cousins and that is a huge mistake. With a weak draft for quarterbacks and a dearth of good options on the free agent market, Cousins could bring back an immense return.
In addition to that, there is no guarantee the two sides can work out a long-term contract. That means Washington could be left with the unattractive option of franchise-tagging Cousins for a third consecutive season next year. If that happens, the team would owe Cousins a 44 percent raise over his current salary, which would be $34.47 million for a single season. There is no way the team does that, which means Cousins is essentially on a one-year deal in 2017 and will be a free agent in 2018.
So is Cousins even worth the nearly $24 million he’ll make in 2017? Probably not. He’s had a great last two seasons in Washington and set career-highs in completions (406), completion percentage (67.0) and yards (4,917) in 2016. But his quarterback rating (97.2) and Total QBR (71.3) actually regressed in 2016 and he had four fewer touchdowns (25) and one more interception (12) than in 2015.
League-wide, Cousins ranked seventh in passer rating, sixth in Total QBR and 13th in touchdown passes. Yeah, he’s been good, but he’s not a singular talent who deserves to be getting one of the NFL’s top three quarterback salaries.
Cousins and Washington’s front office have long had a contentious relationship. There is zero guarantee he would be willing to work out a long-term contract with the team. Additionally, he seems to relish the idea of a reunion with San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan was Washington’s offensive coordinator from 2010 to 2013 and mentored Cousins when he entered the league in 2012. As noted above, the 28-year-old quarterback could bolt for the 49ers after 2017 and Washington would get nothing in return.
Unless Washington’s front office is 100 percent convinced it can get Cousins to sign a team-friendly, long-term deal, it has to explore trade options. There may never be this kind of historically weak draft and free agent class at quarterback in the same offseason again. If the team can get a huge haul for Cousins, it should take it, not throw money away for just one season.