In the wildest development of the Redskins offseason yet, the team, as reported by Adam Schefter, is considering placing the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins, the first step before an eventual trade to recoup some of what they lost in acquiring Alex Smith from Kansas City.
Someone — without mentioning any names — was laughed at around these parts for floating precisely that theory last week.
Trading Cousins, at one-year and $34.5 million, won’t be easy, and even attempting it could spark a risky game of chicken between the Redskins and Cousins, as it would depend on Cousins actually signing the tag.
Even still, to pull off a trade and recoup anything — the Redskins swapped a third-round pick and Kendall Fuller for Smith — they gave to Kansas City would be an act of shrewd business savvy by Washington. If it works.
But, it’s not the Redskins’ only play. They have until March 6 to decide whether to tag Cousins for a third straight year, and until March 14 before that $34.5 million would hit the books against their 2018 salary cap. Surely, tying up roughly $51.5 million between two quarterbacks would be foolish.
But they do have other options, some more crackpot-y than others. Here are a few harebrained theories put together by myself, and by ‘Grant & Danny’ producer Tom Daly, about how the Redskins could best leverage their quarterback assets for maximal return.
Trade Cousins to The Browns
While as many as nine teams could be in the market for a starting quarterback, either to be acquired through free agency, the draft or trade, the Cleveland Browns — who have won a total of one game under six quarterbacks in two seasons — are by far the most desperate to lock up a proven passer. They have the money (upwards of $100 million in cap space), the compensation (12 draft picks in 2018, two first-rounders) and the need.
Sure, Cousins could indirectly threaten a trade by the Redskins by informing any potential trade partner he will not be signing an extension after the deal goes through, but are you honestly going to tell me, if Cousins were to lead the Browns to the playoffs in 2018, that he wouldn’t at least consider Cleveland as a long-term destination? Taken at his word, Cousins values winning over everything at this point in his career.
Return: Second- or Third-Round Pick (even being optimistic about their chances to re-sign, the Browns aren’t likely to give up anything better than a second-round pick for Cousins).
Trade Alex Smith to The Browns
Many have rushed to declare the Redskins insane for even considering tagging Cousins, because they could wind up getting stuck with two franchise quarterbacks and $51.5 million tied up at one position. Those people haven’t considered trading Alex Smith. At four years, $94 million ($71 million guaranteed), Smith is an affordable trade prospect, one who could bring immediate stability to a QB-needy team starving for consistency (the Browns). Smith would also yield the biggest return, especially from the right team (the Browns).
The McCloughan Effect: The Browns added former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan as a draft consultant over the weekend. McCloughan, as Daly notes, is no fan of over-drafting quarterbacks (although, he’s had nice things to say about Baker Mayfield). Suppose McCloughan advises the Browns to take care of their QB problem in advance of the April 26 draft, and then focus on building depth with their 11 remaining draft picks.
In this theory, the Redskins flip Smith for a first-round pick and select Baker Mayfield fourth overall. They then have their next great star (to sell jerseys and fill seats), and up until the 2018 trade deadline to move Cousins. Quarterbacks get hurt all the time; if it’s the right team, at the right time, a GM could come calling for Cousins to keep playoff hopes alive. Unload Smith, and Cousins’ $34.5 million tag — with a chance to unload some of it — suddenly looks more affordable.
Return: First-Round Pick (4th Overall).
Dress Three Star QBs in 2018
As proposed on ‘Grant & Danny,’ Daly believes Bruce Allen is so spiteful, he’d be willing to publicly embarrass Cousins for the next calendar year. Yes, that includes keeping Smith and Cousins on their roster in 2018, and drafting a quarterback in the first round.
As noted above, with McCloughan running Cleveland’s draft board, Daly believes the Browns will abstain from drafting a quarterback, leaving one less team (at two draft slots, first and fourth overall) to compete with the Redskins for the top passers in this year’s class.
The Giants, Colts, Broncos, Jets, Buccaneers, Bears, Raiders, 49ers, Dolphins and Bengals also pick before the Redskins at 13. By Daly’s trickle-down theory, if only four of those teams (or fewer) draft a quarterback, the Redskins could still end up with one of Josh Rosen (UCLA), Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Allen (Wyoming), Mayfield (Oklahoma) or Lamar Jackson (Louisville). All while Cousins is left hanging in the breeze.
In order for this theory to work, the Redskins must conserve cap space by drafting strictly for need, in the truest sense, by filling out their roster with cheap rookie talent. Welcome to the NFL, Taylor Stallworth. You’re now the starting nose tackle for the Washington Redskins!
“I don’t think it’s insanity,” Daly explained on 106.7 The Fan. “I think that we’ve all watched the Redskins long enough to know what they’re capable of. This is right in their realm of capability.”
Trade Smith and Cousins
If the Redskins really want to maximize bang-for-their-buck, they’ll unload Smith and Cousins in the same offseason. While this would eviscerate playoff hopes for 2018, they’d recoup ample draft picks with which to retool for a resurgent 2019. They could still get their flashy new toy in the draft, but stick him behind Colt McCoy to learn for a year, while maintaining the upside of being proven correct (should McCoy surprise and turn out a decent season).
If Bruce Allen truly values being viewed as the visionary who changed the game (as my colleague Tom Daly believes he does), trading Cousins and Smith in the same offseason for a haul of draft picks is the best way to go.
Return: First-Round Pick? Second-Round Pick? The possibilities are endless.
Of course, all four theories could be proven incorrect with time, but the offseason will be a heck of a lot more fun with these ideas tumbling around in your brain! You’re more than welcome to leave your own theories in the comments. In the meantime, please do vote in our poll.