NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported the two sides have been resigned to Cousins' playing under the franchise tag in 2017 since spring. The Pro Bowler will be forced to play for the $23.9 million tag if he does not agree to a long-term contract by Monday.
It will be the second straight season he's been Washington's franchise player.
From a financial perspective, Washington faced an uphill battle in convincing Cousins to sign a long-term contract. Its decision to engage in contentious negotiations on a long-term contract after franchising Cousins last season gave him little incentive to give the team a break when he went out and proved himself again in 2016.
Earning the franchise tag in back-to-back seasons has netted Cousins $43.9 million in guaranteed money. That's essentially as much money as Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco were guaranteed upon signing their long-term contracts, per Spotrac. Eli Manning ($54 million) is the only other quarterback in football with more money guaranteed at signing than Cousins.
Assuming Cousins continues to play at an above-average level for a starting quarterback, he's going to have a robust market next offseason. Washington can compete with the handful of teams that will go all-in on his services, use the transition tag (worth $28.7 million) or franchise Cousins again, which would guarantee him no less than $34.7 million in 2018.
If Cousins finds a long-term deal elsewhere, he'll probably wind up getting $40-50 million guaranteed at signing—and even more in terms of so-called practical guarantees. It would be a shock if his next contract does not push him over $100 million in career cash earnings.
Pelissero reported the contract offered by Washington was in no way a market-value deal. It lowered his 2017 salary and gave him guarantees only through the 2018 season, meaning it would become a base salary-laden deal afterward. Washington could have essentially cut Cousins in 2019 without giving him any additional financial security.
Given how drawn out this process has become, it's hard to blame Cousins for balking and betting on himself again.