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Need to Know: What happens after the Redskins tag Cousins?

Need to Know: What happens after the Redskins tag Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 29, nine days before the start of NFL free agency.

If Cousins gets tagged tomorrow then what?

It appears likely, but not certain, that the Redskins will put the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins sometime between this morning and the deadline, which falls at 4 p.m. tomorrow. Assuming that happens, what’s next?

Cousins will have to decide to sign it or not—The tag is not a contract until the player signs it. Cousins could sign it right away. That would fully guarantee the contract immediately and ensure against the (unlikely) prospect of the Redskins pulling the tag, which a team can do before it’s signed. It also would require Cousins to attend the mandatory minicamp and report for training camp. As long as the tender remains unsigned Cousins can field offers from other teams. If he accepts an offer sheet, the Redskins would have to match it or lose Cousins and get two first-round draft picks as compensation. Once the tender is signed he can't talk to other teams.

Both the Redskins and Cousins’ camp will watch the free agent market—They will be particularly interested in what Sam Bradford gets from the Eagles or whatever team he signs with. The situation in San Francisco might draw some attention as well; if Colin Kaepernick is released, his new contract would give both sides in the negotiation something more to work with.

The Redskins will look for a new QB in the draft—Even if Cousins signs a long-term deal before the draft Scot McCloughan will carefully consider the quarterbacks in the draft as a developmental project. But if Cousins is still on the tag at the end of April the Redskins will look at the position with considerably more urgency. If they might have Cousins for just one more year taking a quarterback in the fourth round, maybe even the third, would be a wise precautionary move, defense against the possibility that Cousins could be gone in 2017.

The two sides probably don’t move much until July 15 approaches—Talks may or may not formally break off but after the tag has been done the Redskins will turn to other business such as bringing back their own free agents and signing others. And Mike McCartney, Cousins’ agent, will go about representing his other clients with other teams. They probably will stay in touch but there will be no reason for either side to give any significant ground until the calendar turns to July. If no deal has been worked out by July 15 Cousins will play out the season under the franchise tag.

Timeline

—Cary Conklin, who started two games at quarterback for the Redskins in 1993, was born on this date in 1968. So, yes, the Redskins do have a leap day baby among their alumni. Per Pro Football Reference, a total of 19 players who were born on February 29 played in the NFL.

—The Redskins last played a game 50 days ago. It will be about 195 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 9; Redskins offseason workouts start 49; 2016 NFL draft 59

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Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

The Redskins face the very real prospect of losing receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon via free agency. Head coach Jay Gruden wants both players back, but is prepared to roll with the guys on the team if Jackson and Garçon depart. 

"Obviously DeSean and Pierre had great years. 1,000 yards each. Those are going to be hard to replace," Gruden said to reporters in Indianapolis. 

It's still possible the Redskins keep both Jackson and Garçon, or keep one of the two, just as both players could leave the organization. In his comments, it seemed like Gruden does not expect one or both guys to be back, and that the team will move on without them. That could mean losing Jackson's 1,005 receiving yards or Garçon's 1,041. 

"Coach the guys that we have. Free agency you’re never going to be able to sign everybody you want as a coach," he said. "I’d like to have Alshon Jeffery, Pierre and DeSean. Heck, give them all to me. I know that's not going to happen."

Gruden tends to joke often speaking with the media, and clearly the prospect of signing Jeffery, a star wideout for the Bears that will hit free agency next week, along with Jackson and Garçon isn't going to happen. The receiver market in free agency will be interesting to watch, as a number of top options will be available. Jeffery, Jackson, Garçon along with Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor and younger prospects like Kenny Stills and Kenny Britt. 

Asked if it was "necessary" to bring at least one of Garçon or Jackson back, Gruden bristled. 

"Would never say necessary. I’d love to have them both back, I'd love to have one back. If we are unfortunate enough to lose them both, I'm not gonna blink."

The coach explained the team has a good crop of young pass catchers already on the roster. 

"I do feel very good about Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson. I love the fact that Mo Harris got a lot of work in, he’s gonna develop."

The coach should feel good about the young receivers, their development is part of his job. Crowder looks like a future star in the slot. Still, Jackson and Garçon accounted for more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards in 2016. That's a lot of yardage to lose. 

Of course, Doctson's development will be a major theme this offseason. A first-round pick in 2016, the Redskins got next to nothing from him as a rookie as he dealt with an Achilles injury. A healthy 6-foot-2 Doctson could offset some of the lost productivity that would come with the departure of Jackson or Garçon.

And then there is always free agency. It's entirely possible Washington could sign another, perhaps cheaper, wideout on the marketplace should they lose two the same way. Gruden said the team has 'other free agents' the team could pursue.

"We have Plan B's and Plan C's ready to go," Gruden said. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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The Redskins aren't willing to trade Kirk Cousins unless they are

The Redskins aren't willing to trade Kirk Cousins unless they are

Shortly after Kirk Cousins got the exclusive franchise tag from the Redskins on Saturday, two sort of conflicting reports. One, from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, was that Cousins “is not going anywhere” and a trade is essentially off the table. Mike Florio of Pro Football talk, quoting “a source familiar with the dynamics of the situation” reported that the Redskins would have to be “blown away” by a trade offer in order to pull the trigger on a deal.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 4.0

On the face of it, the reports conflict. One says that Cousins is available, the other says that he isn’t. But that valuation of them assumes the sources for these reports were intent on putting out the truth. The fact is that Cousins is very much available for the right offer.

A conversation along the lines of this one could well take place in Indianapolis this week:

“How much do you want for your house?”

“It’s not for sale.”

“No, really, how much do you want.”

“Really, it’s not for sale.”

“I’ll give you $50,000 over whatever it gets appraised for.”

“Sold!”

In short, you don’t need to have a “for sale” sign up in front of something to sell it. In fact, sometimes it’s better to act as though you have no intention of selling whatever it is. That can intrigue potential buyers even more.

The analogy falters a bit as it seems that the Redskins are unlikely to get a premium over whatever Cousins’ valuation on the open market might be. The receiving team will have to give the QB a massive contract. In addition, a team that wants Cousins is likely to be able to get him with no compensation in a year, when Cousins is likely to be an unfettered free agent. But you get the idea.

More Redskins: What happens next with Cousins?

The message from the Redskins is, don’t come at us with a couple of mid rounders. There is some point where the compensation for giving up Cousins a year earlier than they might have to isn’t enough. It literally would be better to rent Cousins for one more season than get, say, a third-round pick with a 2018 fifth thrown in.

That being said, they are not going to get the RG3 type haul—three firsts and a second—in exchange for Cousins. The likely would accept something south of that in exchange for Cousins’ rights.

So, he’s not available at any price—unless the price is right.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.