Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins gathers himself in the tunnel before the team takes the field against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 26. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

INDIANAPOLIS – Kirk Cousins wants to return to the Redskins, and the Redskins want him to return. Settling on a value that satisfies both sides before March 1 could prove impossible, and so team officials could opt to use the franchise tag to protect themselves from losing the quarterback on the open market.

Such a move wouldn’t necessarily prove disappointing to Cousins and his camp, people familiar with his thinking believe. In 2015, Cousins played well in a contract year and in his first opportunity as a full-time starter, so he has confidence in his abilities and potential.

In some cases, the franchise tag can prove divisive. Players have at times taken offense at that designation because they would instead prefer their teams commit to a lucrative long-term contract. However, that’s not the case for Cousins.

And so, if the two sides fail to hammer out a deal, and the franchise tag is the route Washington opts for to retain Cousins, he will embrace the opportunity to further prove himself as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL.

Regardless of how the Redskins lock Cousins up, he stands to earn a dramatic pay increase.

The Redskins are believed to want to sign Cousins to a contract that pays him on average between $16 million and $18 million a year. Cousins drew a base salary of $660,000 last season.

Meanwhile, the franchise tag would call for Cousins to draw a one-year salary of nearly $20 million for 2016. Because of that, and the belief that plenty of teams would pursue Cousins on the open market, further driving up his value, he doesn’t feel pressured to sign a deal with Washington. The two sides will continue to work their way through the process and see how things play out, people within the Redskins organization and in Cousins’s camp said.

The Redskins can ensure that they don’t lose Cousins to another team by placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on him. That way, his agent could talk to other teams in free agency, but the Redskins would reserve the right to match that contract offer, or refuse two first-round picks as compensation if they decided to let him walk.

League insiders believe it’s highly unlikely that another team would offer to pay Cousins more than $20 million, so Washington’s risk of losing him, if franchised, appears nonexistent.

The Redskins and Cousins could continue negotiating toward a multiple-year deal up until July 15. If unsuccessful, he would then play under the franchise tag and become a free agent again next season. If he plays well, Cousins would have the opportunity to further drive up his value.

More from The Post:

Redskins meet with agents to discuss restructuring contracts

Washington will roll over $5.8 million in salary-cap space

How the top O-linemen and running backs measured at the combine

Could the Redskins draft another offensive lineman from Iowa?

More NFL: Redskins | Around the league | D.C. Sports BogNFL combine

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @MasterTes | @Insider