ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins must do something they haven't yet done -- and they must do it as soon as the season ends.
Make quarterback Kirk Cousins an offer that tempts him to sign. And if he doesn't? Move on.
To this point, the Redskins haven't done what's necessary to get this deal done. It goes back to the beginning and was true last offseason, even when Washington made what it considered a good offer, extending his franchise tag deal by one year and $29 million guaranteed. Combined with his $24 million franchise tag number, that would have netted the QB $53 million over two years.
After this offseason, he'll make, conservatively, another $60 million guaranteed -- or, in other words, $84 million over that same two-year period.
It made sense for Cousins to say no. But he debated countering because it was at least a starting point.
Cousins, one source said, did not want to counter because he wasn't ready to sign no matter what Washington offered, as the NFL Network's Dan Hellie also said earlier this week. Like the Redskins with him a year prior, Cousins wanted to see more from the organization. How would the new front office work? Could he have confidence that it could build a winner? How would the playcaller/quarterback relationship go with Sean McVay off to Los Angeles?
Some Redskins fans -- amazingly -- don't like to hear that Cousins has played well this season. He has done so despite what has happened around him: the offensive line that hasn't been healthy since early in the season; the main receiving threat, tight end Jordan Reed, unable to play six games (and counting); the best home-run threat, pass-catching running back Chris Thompson, lost for the season; and the top two receivers from a year ago, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, on other teams.
Despite all that, the Redskins have remained efficient and competitive offensively. That doesn't put Cousins in the Hall of Fame, but it does cement his standing in the league. Cousins knows that he plays for a good playcaller and play designer in Jay Gruden. Cousins also knows that owner Dan Snyder wants him around.
But whenever there are perceived slights or leaks, it lingers. People close to Cousins will tell you that those stories -- whether it's about the team needing to see more from him or anything else -- don't always bother him. But he doesn't forget them, either.
If you don't think Cousins is worth $30 million per season, don’t offer him that much. But the Redskins must make an offer in the ballpark, a legitimate offer that reflects Cousins' market value and leverage. They need to propose a deal that screams that they want to get it done, put a ring on the damn finger and finally walk down the aisle together.
They didn't do that with their offer after the 2015 season; that $12.5 million per year offer still resonates as much as anything that has happened since. At the time, it would have made Cousins the 20th-highest-paid quarterback in the league. A year later, it would have made him No. 24, and right now he'd be 22nd. Was that really the way to start?
The funny thing is, had the Redskins said yes to Cousins' proposal of three years and $19 million two years ago, he'd now be the 16th-highest-paid quarterback in the league.
There's no guarantee that Cousins would say yes to any proposal. But if he says no, then at least the Redskins can make their next move with clarity about the situation. Find out one way or another; force his hand. If he says no? Use the franchise tag and try to trade him.
If the Redskins really want to get a long-term deal done, the transition tag seems to be the way to go. If they franchise Cousins, they might as well try to trade him because the likelihood of it leading to a deal is a long shot. He'd be gone the following offseason.
With the transition tag, they can let another team do the bidding and then match. As Dan Graziano pointed out, they can continue to use the transition tag for several more years if they want.
Either way, the Redskins need to go for it in early January. If they wait until late in the spring to make a strong offer, it'll be too late.