News & Analysis

Cousins under franchise tag, but questions about receiving corps remain

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins drops back to pass against the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at FedExField on November 20, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

For the second-straight offseason, the Washington Redskins have opted to use their franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins, this time the exclusive version. While the exclusive tag prevents Cousins from negotiating with other teams without approval by Washington’s front office first, it is still possible that he could get traded to another team, albeit unlikely. Working under the assumption that he will not be moved, Cousins will be back with the Redskins for a nearly $24 million fully-guaranteed contract, or the two sides will have to work out a long-term deal by mid-July.

Cousins was put on a one-year “prove-it” contract with last year’s franchise tag, and not only did he do that, he had the best season of his career to push his stock even higher. Cousins earned an 85.9 overall grade to finished as the eighth-ranked quarterback for the 2016 season, up from an 81.0 grade that had him ranked 16th in the previous year. He didn’t start out very well last season, but over the final 11 games, was much more consistent week-to-week than he had ever been in the past. Cousins also ranked among the top-10 QBs in adjusted completion percentage, both when under pressure and kept clean.

There’s no doubt that Cousins took a major step forward last season. Now the question is whether or not he can sustain that level of play, and just how high his ceiling is as a quarterback. Without any other real options at QB available on the free-agent market or otherwise, Washington had little choice but to use the tag and hope that Cousins’ best play is still ahead of him. However, there’s no guarantee that will be the case. Next season, the Redskins QB could potentially be without his top two wide receivers, Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson, who are also set to be free agents next week. If neither are re-signed, there’s a chance it could have a negative impact on Cousins’ continued development.

Jamison Crowder was productive from the slot as a No. 3 wide receiver, but isn’t a No. 1-caliber WR. Last year’s first-round draft pick and the Redskins’ future at the position, Josh Doctson, played just 31 snaps as a rookie before missing the rest of the season due to an injury. Doctson reportedly was just recently cleared to run again, and it is unclear what the team can realistically expect from him next year. So, while the arrow is pointing up for Cousins, his work might be cut out for him if he loses two of his best offensive weapons.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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