Redskins have little choice but to use tag on Kirk Cousins

Ad Pro Test Clip 86 - March 2017 (1:37)

Ad Pro Test Clip 86 - March 2017 (1:37)

INDIANAPOLIS -- The franchise tag is not the best way to go for the Washington Redskins when it comes to Kirk Cousins. But it might be the only way to go. And as the March 1 deadline for the tag draws closer, it appears that’s what will happen.

It’s hard to imagine the sides changing their stance on what they want at this point. It also hammers home how difficult a deal this is to negotiate. The Redskins, while they like Cousins, are like many: They wish they had more of a track record to go on. That’s not to say they’re not confident in what he can do, but it limits how much they want to pay at this point.

For Cousins’ side, they understand who has the leverage: He’s a free agent coming off his best season for a team with no concrete alternative and with a rising salary cap this offseason and next. It naturally leads to thoughts of a big payday. No one should blame Cousins for that. He is playing the system the way it should be played: maximize your worth.

I’ve never liked the franchise tag for the Redskins when it comes to Cousins because of where it could lead. If Cousins plays well, then he would have made nearly $20 million and will then be in line for a deal bigger than he would have received this offseason. If not, it could lead to another franchise tag and approximately $24 million payday. That’s $44 million in two seasons -- or the amount of guaranteed money that he might receive on a long-term deal.

There will be pressure on Cousins if he’s on a one-year deal. There would be pressure if he receives a big payday. There was pressure on him last year -- if he had failed as a starter, he’d have been labeled a career backup.

Of course, if Cousins has another strong season, then the Redskins would be happy to pay him the extra dough because it likely would have meant another good year for the team. Ultimately that’s what you want -- and ultimately that’s how Cousins will be measured.

The Redskins do like what they have in him, but they also must be mindful of building the sort of roster they need so they can win.

“It’s not about the individual, it’s the sum of the parts,” Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said. “There are 52 other guys. I have to make sure the organization is taken care of, but I want Kirk here and Kirk wants to be here. There’s a way to get to that point.”

This is not a contentious situation -- Cousins’ agent Mike McCartney and McCloughan are long-time friends and acquaintances -- just one where both sides have differing views as to what Cousins should be paid. It’ll likely lead to the Redskins using the franchise tag, a move that will keep Cousins around but not in the manner Washington had hoped.