James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports



On Tuesday, the Washington Redskins placed the exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. Placing the exclusive franchise tag and not the non-exclusive version on Cousins means that the quarterback is not able to be part of negotiations in order to initiate a trade to another team. All negotiations must go through Washington.

Technically, the San Francisco 49ers could still discuss a trade for Cousins with Washington. The problem is that they would only be able to discuss compensation with Washington and would be unable to speak to Cousins or his agent to determine if a long-term contract could be accomplished prior to a trade. That lack of information creates a big problem for any team that is interested in Cousins.

Following the news of Cousins being franchised, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that the quarterback would not be traded by Washington. "They decided that they're not going to trade him to the San Francisco 49ers," Rapoport said during an interview on NFL Network. "They decided that they're not going to trade him anywhere. He's going to be their quarterback for the next year and that is that."

That gave the impression that Washington was dead set on keeping Cousins for the 2017 season, which makes sense considering Washington used the exclusive franchise tag and not the non-exclusive franchise tag. However, Rapoport changed his tune a bit later on Tuesday, admitting that the possibility of Cousins still being traded was "highly unlikely" and not necessarily out of the realm of possibility.

"They can trade him but the difference here is that Kirk Cousins doesn't control his own fate," Rapoport said on NFL Network. "If they gave him the non-exclusive tag, he could seek a deal. He could work out an extension. He could do all the legwork and simply have the Redskins sign off on the compensation. That is not the case here and it just seems unlikely – highly, highly unlikely – the Redskins would trade him somewhere and then just force the team to go into negotiations blind, not knowing whether or not he would take a long-term deal."

Host Dan Hellie added, "Maybe some backroom negotiations could be going on." Rapoport offered a casual shrug, possibly indicating that was at least a small (or very small) possibility.

Of course, as already mentioned, Washington would have to allow Cousins to speak to the 49ers to see if he'd be willing to work out a long-term contract with them and San Francisco would have to be fairly positive that they could pull that off as well. If they were going to do that anyway, then they probably would have just used the non-exclusive franchise tag and let Cousins speak to whom he wants. Either way, they would be compensated handsomely if the quarterback went elsewhere.

A report by Pro Football Talk said that Washington would need to be "blown away" by an offer in order to even begin thinking about trading Cousins. The report stated that team president Bruce Allen is specifically thinking of what Washington gave up five years ago to get quarterback Robert Griffin III.

"Some would say Washington can't have it both ways," writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. "On one hand, they don't want to pay Cousins franchise-quarterback money on a long-term deal. On the other hand, they want franchise-quarterback compensation for him in trade."

Unless Washington and Cousins agree on a long-term contract, the quarterback will be able to test free agency in 2018, when a team like the 49ers would be able to sign him without the need to give up draft picks as compensation. Of course, they will have to compete with any other quarterback-needy team that shows interest in Cousins.

Cousins will earn $23.94 million in 2017 playing for Washington under the franchise tag. In 2016, he made nearly $20 million in Washington playing under the tag. Obviously, Cousins would prefer a long-term deal that offers him as much guaranteed money as possible, and it doesn't appear to be in the future with Washington. On the other hand, the 49ers can afford to wait until 2018 if they choose to pursue Cousins anyway. Both head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch received six-year contracts and have been given the time needed to methodically rebuild the team's roster. Time is a luxury that the organization has.