No franchise tag for Cousins, now set to hit free agency
By STEPHEN WHYNO
WASHINGTON (AP) Kirk Cousins' time with the Washington Redskins is about to end after they chose not to use the franchise tag on the quarterback as expected.
The Redskins have agreed to acquire Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs, effectively pushing Cousins into free agency following a tumultuous six years with the club the drafted him. Cousins will be the top free agent available when the league year opens in mid-March and should have no shortage of suitors.
"Next week is now officially the first time since 2007 that I'll be choosing where to play football," Cousins posted on Twitter. "I'm open to suggestions."
The 29-year-old Cousins is coming off his third consecutive 4,000-yard passing season. In his time as a full-time NFL starter, he has completed 67 percent of his passes for 81 touchdowns, 36 interceptions and a 97.5 QB rating.
Despite previously saying Washington could win with Cousins, coach Jay Gruden said at the scouting combine that "it's time for us to move on" and find some continuity at the position.
The Redskins now seemingly have that in Smith, who will join the Redskins once the trade becomes official March 14 and has agreed to a four-year extension with $71 million guaranteed.
Cousins could easily command more than that on the open market with the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns among the teams interested in upgrading at quarterback.
After becoming the first QB in NFL history to play two consecutive seasons on the franchise tag - making almost $44 million in the process - Cousins is looking for long-term stability in the wake of almost-weekly questions about his future in Washington persisted over the past few years. Agent Mike McCartney declined to comment on the plans of the Cousins camp in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
This is perhaps the first time in Cousins' football career that he has been No. 1 on any list. He did not have any scholarship offers as a high school senior, was not considered a top prospect after four years at Michigan State and got picked in the fourth round in 2012 by the Redskins - the same draft they traded up to make Robert Griffin III the No. 2 pick.
Only 39-year-old Drew Brees, who's expected to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints, threw for more yards last season than Cousins, who is the best option available in a crop that includes Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Josh McCown. Though during the 2017 season it was reported that Cousins could set a record for QB contracts, it's unclear how close he might come to the $135 million, five-year deal with $92 million guaranteed that Matthew Stafford signed with the Detroit Lions.
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Updated March 6, 2018