The Washington Redskins have reached decision day with quarterback Kirk Cousins. The question they must answer by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday is this: Do they use the transition tag on him or the franchise tag? Both ways make a statement as to what they think can or might happen. As of late Monday night, there was uncertainty on both sides about what the Redskins would do.
If the Redskins use the franchise tag (this has appeared to be the most likely option, but it's not definite), they are clearly comfortable with the direction Cousins is headed but not yet sold on his asking price. They do like him, and that’s clear in both public and private comments, but they also acknowledge that to pay him a certain amount requires more than what Cousins has shown.
There’s nothing wrong with that; just like Cousins can ask for whatever he wants, the Redskins can stick to their price for now. The two sides can keep negotiating and sign a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline -- or they can revisit the whole issue again next offseason. At that point, at least one side will be glad they went this direction. If both are, then it was a heck of a year.
If they use the transition tag, it suggests the Redskins are confident in what the market would bear for Cousins. This allows Cousins to test the market, and the Redskins would have seven days to match if he signs an offer sheet elsewhere. It’s not a guarantee they’d lose him, but it could lead to a deal they didn’t want. Another team does their bidding, which can be dangerous -- unless other teams don’t want to get involved knowing the Redskins will match.
Regardless of which direction they decide, the Redskins do like Cousins -- there were talks early in the season about offering Cousins a deal then, but they still wanted to see more. Eventually they did.
The seeds of belief were planted before the final 10 games in which his play accelerated. This isn’t a case of wavering support, but it is a matter of their belief matching the amount of money they want to spend. They want to keep him, but they want to do so at the right price. They have a player they believe can be a good quarterback for a while, something they haven’t had in a long time. They’ll need to find a way to get it done, but if there’s one thing we learned from the Robert Griffin III trade: Don’t act from desperation and just pay whatever to get something done.
It’ll be an interesting day for the Redskins whatever they decide. But this isn’t the end of the story; in many ways it’s just beginning.