- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2017

Will Kirk stay or will he go?

Rumor, conjecture, report or speculation. Whatever you want to call it, the reason it’s pouring in and out of every crack and crevice of D.C., Maryland and Virginia is that Kirk Cousins has yet to sign his franchise tender, nine days after it was extended to him.

Why? Either he doesn’t like the deal, or he doesn’t like who he’s dealing with.

A report, from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, came out Thursday claiming that Cousins personally asked owner Daniel Snyder to trade him. Cousins “was basically told not to get his hopes up,” according to Mortensen.

Ouch. To the extent that the Cousins negotiations had become personal, it had seemed for a while that money was still the only true sticking point. Cousins may have felt undervalued in the past but, judging by his agent Mike McCartney’s comments after the team applied the tag, a proper payday would have soothed all wounds.

“The Redskins had let us know how much they value Kirk and how they see him as a franchise quarterback,” McCartney said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It was a question of if they were going to put the exclusive or non-exclusive tag on him. When they put the exclusive tag on him they tried to send a message that Kirk is our guy and that we [the Redskins] believe in him. And we took that the right way.”

If Cousins wants out of Washington, that may no longer be the case. It’s hardly surprising, as things have deteriorated quickly out in the rolling hills of Ashburn, Va.

Cousins could hold out and try to get the team to rescind the tag. He could tell the Redskins that he won’t attend offseason workouts or participate in the preseason and try to force the team’s hand into trading him.

All indications have shown that the Redskins do not want to trade Cousins and would prefer to have him around for next season. If Cousins promises to make life miserable for everyone around him, though, that could change, though it would require a significant departure from Cousins’ normal behavior.

So far, Cousins has been amenable. After all, he had a strong negotiating position from which to earn himself $24 million, and it makes every bit of sense and more that he used it.

As long as he shows up for the regular season, Cousins gets the full value of the tag. There’s a common assumption going around that he wouldn’t skip offseason activities, and doing so would run counter to Cousins’ reputation as a team-first guy.

As the days tick by with the tender unsigned, however, it seems more and more likely that he could be feeling differently.

The only reasonable situation in which the Redskins could rescind the tag would be one in which they figured Cousins would test the open market and wind up dissatisfied enough with his other options to want to sign a long-term deal with Washington. In the past few days, teams have willingly asked both Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer to become their starting quarterbacks. So, yeah, not happening.

Cousins could say that he won’t play — something that players like Von Miller and Eric Berry have threatened in the past — but that would be an empty threat. He’s not leaving $24 million on the table.

The Redskins own Cousins’ rights whether he signs the tender or not. He can not negotiate with other teams unless they rescinded the tag. Both sides would have to come to an agreement with another team, and such an agreement would be difficult to negotiate. Cousins would have to be satisfied with a deal that a trading partner would offer him upon arrival, and the Redskins would have to be happy with what they’d get in return for him.

That’s quite the tango for a group that’s currently bungling the two-step.

• Nora Princiotti can be reached at nprinciotti@washingtontimes.com.

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