Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports



Prepare yourself for "Kirk Cousins Watch" throughout the 2017 season. The Washington Redskins have failed to sign their starting quarterback to a long-term deal. He will play under the franchise tag in 2017.


The chances of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins becoming a free agent in 2018 have greatly increased. Washington and its quarterback were unable to come to a long-term agreement before the July 17 deadline. Of course, Washington can resume negotiations with Cousins after the 2017 season, but, for now, it looks as though the quarterback has come closer to becoming a free agent next year.


If he does not end up back in Washington, the most likely destination for Cousins might be the San Francisco 49ers. Cousins and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan are very fond of one another and Shanahan even compared his rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, a third-round draft pick out of Iowa, to the veteran quarterback.

"He processes the game so well," Shanahan said in the 49ers draft war room following the selection of Beathard. "Tough as s---. Got a chance. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins."

Cousins shares a mutual admiration for his former offensive coordinator.

"I've always been a big fan of Kyle's," Cousins said in February prior to Super Bowl 51 between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. "I've always spoken very highly of him since the day I was picked and he called me right after the draft and just preached belief in me and encouragement, has coached me hard in all my years playing for him. I loved his system right away and saw it successfully run with Robert Griffin. I've seen it now successfully run with Matt Ryan and I just believe Kyle adapts his scheme to the players he has. He's just an offensive genius. He understands X's and O's very well. He watches film. He doesn't just read press clippings or make decisions based on hype. He watches the tape."

In February, Washington placed the exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, which meant that any negotiations for the quarterback had to go through the team. It was the second-straight year that the franchise tag was used on Cousins. Last year, Washington used the non-exclusive franchise tag. The use of the exclusive franchise tag this year meant that no NFL team was allowed to open discussions with Cousins himself.

Cousins earned nearly $20 million playing under the franchise tag in 2016. This year, he will be guaranteed to earn $23.94 million on his one-year franchise tag deal.

How much can Cousins expect to receive in free agency from the 49ers or any other NFL team? The value for marquee quarterbacks was recently set when the Oakland Raiders gave Derek Carr a new five-year contract worth up to $125 million. That is now the number to beat for the 49ers or any other interested NFL team once Cousins hits the open market next year. Cousins will be 30 years old when the 2018 season kicks off.

Washington could use the franchise tag for an unprecedented third year, but at the cost of nearly $35.4 million. It is unlikely that Washington would want to spend that kind of money in 2018. It could also use the transition tag at a starting cost of just over $28.7 million. That would allow Washington to match any competing offer. However, the 49ers are expected to once again be among the teams with the most available salary cap space next year. According to the NFLPA, the 49ers currently have nearly $67 million in cap space.

Shanahan and Cousins were only together for two seasons, but the then-offensive coordinator remained a big fan of the quarterback even after leaving Washington. When Shanahan was in Cleveland, he was reportedly able to convince the Browns to try to trade for Cousins. Cleveland offered a fourth-round pick for the quarterback and Washington turned it down.

Cousins had the best statistical season of his career in 2016, completing 67-percent of his passes for 4,917 yards and throwing 25 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions. In 2015, Cousins threw 29 touchdowns while completing nearly 70-percent of his passes.

Cousins earned the eighth-highest overall grade among NFL quarterbacks last season from Pro Football Focus.

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