"We have to," Gruden said at a press conference. "There are ways to plan for it. We have to make sure we have all our ducks in a row whether he's here or not. We have to make this team better."
Franchise tagging Cousins would cost Washington $34.5 million, while transition tagging him would cost $28.8 million. A long-term deal could mean around $25 million per year.
That is a significant amount of money, especially for a quarterback who has failed to win a playoff game in three seasons as the primary starter. Washington's record has gotten worse every year with Cousins (9-7 in 2015, 8-7-1 in 2016 and 7-9 in 2017), and he lost the one playoff game he appeared in during the span.
There is also plenty to like about Cousins, though, which is why it's not a slam-dunk decision either way. He threw for 4,093 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2017, the third straight year he eclipsed 4,000 yards.
Gruden acknowledged the dilemma while noting how productive Cousins has been:
"It's hard to say, 'Wow, this guy really was outstanding. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, we're 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and  touchdowns.
"He's a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning the division with all the injuries we had, he competed and did some good things."
Teams such as the Bills, Jaguars and Cardinals, among others, could be ready to pounce if the Redskins opt not to use an unprecedented third franchise tag on Cousins or sign him long term. Either way, he figures to cash in once again.