Washington is not messing around for the time being. They have designated Kirk Cousins as their franchise quarterback, and more importantly, they have placed the exclusive tag on him, according to Mike McCartney. That means he is not allowed to negotiate with anybody else. As I understand it, the tender salary for each was such that it made sense to simply use the exclusive tag.
Fooch’s update: Cousins confirmed he has been franchised.
Tag! I'm it!— Kirk Cousins (@KirkCousins8) February 28, 2017
This ensures Cousins cannot sign an offer sheet once free agency starts, but it does not mean he will be playing for Washington this fall. The team can still trade him, and I suspect they will be busy this week trying to figure out some options. There was a report on Monday that Cousins would only sign with the San Francisco 49ers. That was followed Tuesday morning by a report that he will consider other options. Not exactly shocking to see some damage control come out of that.
The 49ers make the most sense as a trade partner given Cousins’ relationship with Kyle Shanahan. However, if the first Cousins report is the most accurate, Cousins is the one with some leverage over Washington. He can happily play out this year making big money, and likely either hit free agency next offseason, or get even more big guaranteed money from Washington on either a third franchise tag or the transition tag.