INDIANAPOLIS — The Washington Redskins have all but ruled out the possibility of placing the franchise tag on veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins for a third time, Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams told reporters Wednesday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“He’s a free agent for sure,” Williams said, adding that he “doesn’t think” the organization will opt to tag Cousins and pay him a guaranteed $34.5 million in 2018.
The Redskins technically have until the league’s March 6 deadline to designate Cousins for the tag, thereby keeping the quarterback from hitting free agency in a few weeks. But while Williams noted “it’s not too late” to go that route, he immediately downplayed the likelihood of such a scenario. “We haven’t really talked about that. … I can’t remember one meeting where we talked about the possibility of tagging him.”
With Cousins and the Redskins clearly on the path to parting ways, the 29-year-old will soon have a chance to test the market. He’ll have at least three suitors for sure: the New Jets, Minnesota Vikings and the Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, the Redskins have already closed the book on the Cousins era. The team traded for Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith earlier this month, although Williams declined to discuss the transaction because it isn’t official until the start of the new league year (March 14).
“We can’t talk about whatever might happen until after it happens,” he said, declining to address all Smith questions. “It’s too early to talk about all that cause you never know.”
However, Williams later acknowledged that “we lost a nickel guy,” referring to cornerback Kendall Fuller, who was offered up to Kansas City along with the Redskins’ 2018 third-round pick in exchange for Smith.
Cousins threw for 4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2017, his third year as the full-time starter for the Redskins (7-9). But after years of failing to reach an agreement on a long-term deal, Washington felt it couldn’t take a chance waiting for Cousins to make his choice in free agency.
“Kirk has been there for six years, and I’m sure there’s been opportunity that deals could have been worked out. It hasn’t been worked out,” Williams said. “As a team, you’ve got to always put yourself in a position in case [of] what might not happen. We can’t afford to come to the 12th hour and Kirk decides not to come back and leave us with the bag. We’ve got to make a decision that’s best for the organization and whatever decisions we make or made or what have you, that’s what we have to leave with.”
With their starting quarterback now set — at least, unofficially — the front office can turn its attention to retaining its in-house free agents. Re-signing Zach Brown, their leading tackler last season, remains a top priority, but the linebacker is eager to test the market.
Rather than sign a multi-year deal last offseason, Brown opted for a one-year deal with more guaranteed money.
“We made Zach an offer a long time ago and we’re just waiting on Zach more or less,” Williams said. “We haven’t heard anything, so it’s basically up to them to start the negotiation part.”
The Redskins have been in contact with all of their pending free agents, including cornerback Bashaud Breeland, about whom Williams said, “we’ve talked a little bit, but we haven’t talked a lot.”
That free agent group also includes wide receiver Ryan Grant and outside linebacker Trent Murphy, who missed the season after tearing his ACL just 27 plays into the preseason schedule.
“We’re hoping coming off that injury, he can do the things that he did before he got hurt,” Williams said of Murphy.
Williams also stressed Washington isn’t looking to splurge frivolously in free agency.
“[Spending] big might not be better,” he said. “… I think we have a pretty good team, so I don’t know if we have to spend big just to say we spend big.”