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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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Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

For the second straight season the Redskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. While the two sides are speaking amicably about a long-term deal, the July 15 deadline for those negotiations continues to inch closer without much expectation that contract will get signed. 

A second year on the tag is unprecedented for a quarterback. In 2016, Cousins made nearly $20 million playing on the tag. In 2017, that figure goes up to $24.

If the Redskins don't get a deal done with Cousins, many think the organization would not again go with the franchise tag because the price tag jumps to an exorbitant $34 million. 

Think again. 

Asked on Monday if another franchise tag would be an option for Cousins in 2018, Redskins team president Bruce Allen was clear.

"Yes," he said. "In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract."

Those options include the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Both franchise tags carry the same cost, but the non-exclusive allows Cousins' representatives to shop his services around the NFL. If a deal gets struck, and the Redskins don't match the contract, Washington is due two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their franchise player. 

The transition tag carries a $28 million price tag, and the Redskins can match another contract but risk only receiving a possible 2019 third-round compensatory pick if Cousins walks.

Considering those options, another year on the non-exclusive tag might make sense. The NFL salary cap will be at least $168 million, which means Cousins at $34 million would account for about 20 percent of the Redskins' salary cap.

That's a crazy allotment for one player. Crazy. The Redskins do have about $54 million in cap space for 2018, so technically, another franchise tag could work. 

But the entire manner of the contract dealings with Cousins and the Redskins has been quite unconventional. The Redskins have already made history by franchising Cousins a second-straight year. 

"I think even Kirk said it, there’s a lot of players round the league who are on a one-year deal. It’s the nature of it, we’d like to get him a long-term deal and I think he should want to get one," Allen said. "Kirk’s played well on a one-year contract the last two seasons."

At this point, it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to understand that the Redskins and Cousins have a different picture of the quarterback's long-term value. That could change by July 15th, it could, but it doesn't seem likely. The Cousins camp has little incentive to bend, as $24 million fully guaranteed for 2017 represents a great payday.

And maybe the Redskins don't plan on bending because the option of a third-straight franchise tag doesn't worry them. Or at least the option of letting Cousins shop his services on a non-exclusive tag, and then making a decision to match a deal or receive compensation seems a worthwhile endevaor. 

For Cousins, he's not counting out any possibility. 

"People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row," Cousins said to an ESPN podcast in March. 

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

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The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

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OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

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.