Washington wants Kirk Cousins for the long term but hit him with the non-exclusive franchise tag on Tuesday in order to get more time to work on an agreement.
On Feb. 26, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network added the Redskins haven't ruled out tagging Cousins and trading him.
Cousins, 27, was due to hit unrestricted free agency at the beginning of the 2016 league year. He threw for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in 2015, his first full campaign as a starter. Inconsistent throughout the first half, Cousins put up a 19-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his final eight games while leading Washington to an NFC East title.
"I saw improvement as the season went on," Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said in January, per of the Washington Post. "From the standpoint of going forward, of course I'd like to have him around. Our philosophy with me and the organization is we won't talk contract stuff with the media, but I want him to be a part of the Redskins."
Cousins wound up finishing seventh among quarterbacks in Football Outsiders' DYAR metric and sixth in DVOA. He ranked ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers, among others, but he was not named to the Pro Bowl as a standard selection or alternate. It was a curious choice, given the presence of Jameis Winston, Derek Carr and Eli Manning, who each had comparable or worse counting stats.
"Cousins being passed over...reinforces the fact that the Pro Bowl selection process is a complete joke," Scott Allen of the Washington Post wrote.
After years of internal debate, 2015 made it abundantly clear Cousins is Washington's long-term answer. Robert Griffin III will likely be headed out the door the moment the league year opens, and Washington coach Jay Gruden has tethered his future to Cousins' right arm.
It wasn't long ago that Cousins looked overwhelmed by the speed of the NFL game. He had an interception rate of 4.4 percent or higher in each of his first three NFL seasons, ranking him among the most turnover-prone players in football during that time.
An eight-game stretch of promising football brought a division title to Washington, but Cousins' larger sample indicates a regression to the mean may be coming. If that's the case, going short term is probably for the best.
Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.