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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports


Washington places exclusive franchise tag on Kirk Cousins

Feb 28, 2017 at 10:28 AM


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It has been speculated that the San Francisco 49ers might go after Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. For the second year in a row, Washington has placed the franchise tag on Cousins, which should minimize the interest from other teams. According to NFL Network, Cousins becomes the first quarterback to have the franchise tag placed on him in back-to-back seasons.


Last year, Washington used the non-exclusive franchise tag. This year, they have used the exclusive franchise tag. That means that Cousins cannot negotiate with other teams and Washington holds the complete rights to the quarterback. If Cousins were to be part of a trade, Washington alone would negotiate the terms.

In 2016, the designation earned Cousins nearly $20 million. This year, the tag means that Cousins will be guaranteed $23.94 million to play for Washington. If another team were interested in acquiring Cousins despite the franchise tag designation, that team would need to negotiate compensation with Washington and cannot negotiate with the quarterback. The 49ers have the second overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft and are expected to have a fairly high pick in 2018 as well.

Earlier this month, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Media reported that he believes a deal between Washington and San Francisco for Cousins could take place at the NFL Scouting Combine, which kicked off this week. "I would not be shocked at all if we saw Kirk Cousins to San Francisco trade go down at that point in time and now you've got the dominos really starting to fall," said Jeremiah.

On Tuesday, ESPN reported that, should Cousins be traded, his preferred destination would be San Francisco. "The source told ESPN that Cousins would not sign a long-term deal if he were traded anywhere else -- right now," John Keim wrote. "But much of that is based on a desire to be in San Francisco and a lack of familiarity with other teams. Cousins is a stickler for routine and familiarity. He would not block a deal to another team, but any team that was to trade for him would have to do a lot of convincing in order to get him to sign a long-term contract."

RELATED Daniel Jeremiah: Kirk Cousins could be traded to the 49ers at the Combine

"The unique thing about the franchise tag is if the Redskins choose to place that on me, then I'm pretty much off the market," Cousins said earlier this month. He has stated that he is more than willing to return to Washington and play the 2017 season under the franchise tag.

An interested team like the 49ers could simply wait until the 2018 offseason when Cousins is very likely to become a free agent. The franchise tag for a third straight year would be far too expensive for Washington. However, they could still apply the transition tag at the cost of nearly $29 million. They would then have the ability to at least match any competing offer that Cousins receives from other clubs.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Washington when Cousins was drafted in the fourth-round of the 2012 NFL Draft, thus the Cousins-49ers link that has been discussed repeatedly this offseason. ESPN reported that Cousins loved playing for Shanahan, who is a detail-oriented coach – an aspect that the quarterback admires.

"I've always been a big fan of Kyle's," Cousins said of Shanahan during the week leading up to Super Bowl LI. "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. His decisions over time have proven to be right so I'm a big fan of his. Always will be. Even when he's on other teams, I've always rooted for him and wanted to see him succeed."

In 2016, Cousins had the best season of his career, 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.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is likely to opt out of the remainder of his contract and become a free agent in March. That would leave San Francisco with no quarterbacks signed for the 2017 season.

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