Washington could place franchise tag on Kirk Cousins to trade him

The Washington Redskins seemingly acquired their starting quarterback going forward in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs that brought Alex Smith to Washington in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick.

We at Jet Fuel have already discussed the potential ramifications from the Smith deal. But, there’s a new potential wrinkle worth considering for the New York Jets if they have any interest in bringing in Kirk Cousins this offseason.

The Redskins are considering placing the franchise tag on Cousins in an attempt to get some sort of compensation back for him in a potential trade, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Super Bowl Sunday.

Essentially, the Redskins could make life harder on Cousins and on his potential suitors. Placing the tag on Cousins would prohibit him from becoming a true free agent, removing his ability to choose who he plays for next.

This situation could get ugly, and the Redskins don’t hold all of the control. Cousins could wait to sign the franchise tag until he’s officially traded. The longer the tender remains unsigned, the more likely Washington would have to count the projected $34.447 million cap hit (a 44% raise from last season’s cap hit) Cousins would cost on his third franchise tag. Now, the team could ultimately remove the tag, but that means they would be unable to accrue a 2019 compensatory draft pick if Cousins signs elsewhere.

This is a messy situation, no doubt. But what does it mean for the Jets? Simply, New York might have to not only pay Cousins, but pay the Redskins for Cousins. And, there’s no guarantee Cousins would agree to a long-term extension if he’s dealt to a team he might not have signed with otherwise as an independent free agent.

Of course, if the Redskins do slap the tag on Cousins again and he obliges, the Smith trade could go up in smoke. Remember, franchise tags can’t be placed on players until Feb. 20, but the Smith trade can’t be made official until the new league year begins March 14.

Okay, let’s take a breather from that. Let’s say the Redskins do place the tag and Cousins doesn’t sign it and trade talks begin. What should the Jets do?

In my humble opinion, the Jets would be wise to stay very far away. As someone who hasn’t been an ardent Cousins supporter, I would never trade away any draft capital for his rights, knowing he might not even want to sign a long-term deal with the team.

I understand Cousins has completed 67 percent of his passes and thrown for 13,176 yards, 81 touchdowns and 36 interceptions the last three seasons in Washington. I’m fully aware he hasn’t had much of a running game and his weaponry dropped off this season. I also know the Jets would probably be thrilled to have a passer with a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

But I also think Cousins’ upside as a passer is capped. I believe what he’s shown is close to the best he can do. I view him as a top-12 quarterback, but probably not a top-10 talent. His 24-23-1 record as a starter the last three seasons doesn’t exactly offer much assurance he’ll thrive at his next destination.

Cousins will likely reset the market at the position whenever he finally gets the deal he’s been yearning for. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is currently the league’s highest-paid quarterback after signing a 5-year, $135 million contract last offseason. Cousins will likely top it, or be darn close. Paying top dollar and sending draft compensation to acquire Cousins simply isn’t worth it.

Believe it or not, the small sample size I polled on Twitter somewhat agrees.

Nothing is set in stone yet and this fluid situation will likely have a few twists and turns before it finally reaches a resolution. But the Jets probably won’t get bang for their buck if they signed Cousins as a free agent. The possibility of having to trade just to get him doesn’t make him any more desirable.

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