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For a third straight year, the Washington Redskins face a decision on quarterback Kirk Cousins, one they might start answering as early as Tuesday. But unlike the first two years, it’s unlikely this scenario will play out the same way.

If the Redskins want to apply the franchise tag to Cousins for a third year — as they reportedly have considered — the window opens Tuesday and runs through March 6. The new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET March 14.

Why would they tag him?

To trade him. The Redskins have no intention of bringing back Cousins after trading for Alex Smith in January, a deal that becomes official March 14. The Redskins gave up a third-round pick plus talented young corner Kendall Fuller to get Smith (who then agreed to a four-year extension). They view Cousins as a potential asset who, in theory, could land them another draft pick or two. If Cousins leaves via free agency, his deal could be worth around $30 million per year. Because of the size of the contract, even if the Redskins signed other high-priced free agents, they’d be in line for a third-round compensatory pick in 2019. Trading Cousins now could yield a pick in 2018.

Which tag would it be?

The Redskins would place the franchise tag on Cousins, and because it would be the third time, it would have to be the exclusive one. That would mean no teams could negotiate with the 29-year-old, which, of course, would make any sort of trade difficult. The only other alternative is to use a transition tag to lessen Cousins’ price tag at $28.8 million. But that wouldn’t make much sense. If the Redskins did that, Cousins wouldn’t sign the tender and then could simply secure an offer sheet from another team, and the Redskins would lose him for no compensation (unless they matched the offer, which they wouldn’t).

Will Cousins file a grievance if tagged?

Yes. Multiple sources close to the quarterback said last month he would, and another confirmed Monday that nothing has changed. Their rationale: The tag was meant as a way to keep players around, ostensibly to work out a long-term deal. The Redskins, of course, would have no intention of signing Cousins or keeping him around on the tag. New England tagged Matt Cassel in 2009, though the Patriots were able to claim it was as insurance in case Tom Brady, coming off a knee injury, wasn’t ready to start the season. However, the move was clearly made so they could trade him because within a month the Patriots sent Cassel and starting linebacker Mike Vrabel to Kansas City for a second-round pick. Cassel did not file a grievance.

But Cousins is intent on hitting free agency and will be more aggressive than Cassel in trying to reach that goal.

Would he sign the tender?

That remains to be seen, but Cousins could completely disrupt Washington’s plans with either decision; one source close to Cousins doubted he would sign, but nothing was definite.

If the goal is to get to free agency, Cousins shouldn’t sign. Here’s why: If he doesn’t sign the tender, the Redskins cannot trade him. If they can’t trade him, the Redskins will absorb a $34.5 million cap hit once the new league year starts. That would severely affect their ability to sign other free agents.

Therefore, if Cousins doesn’t sign the tender and if Washington wants to be a player early in free agency, it will have to rescind the tag by the start of the new league year. The result: unrestricted free agency for Cousins. Smith’s $17 million cap hit will go on the Redskins’ books when the trade becomes official. Keep in mind that Kansas City will want Smith off its books so it can be active in free agency immediately. The Redskins can’t hold off on making that trade official while trying to peddle Cousins.

If Cousins does sign the tender, the Redskins will be under major pressure to trade him as soon as possible. Cousins’ side will let other teams know the first year for any deal would then be $34.5 million (the amount of the tag). There would be zero guarantee that Cousins will sign a long-term deal. In fact, there’s a good chance he won’t, and some teams would be told beforehand that there’d be no chance of one at any point. It would be hard for Washington to get much from another team in that situation. The risk would then be having Cousins on the Redskins’ cap at a hefty cost, making for an awkward situation as well. It’s doubtful that it would reach that point.

The only way it could work for Washington is if Cousins signs the tender and another team doesn’t care about the parameters his side sets and still trades for him. That’s a long shot.

Also, the best way to alleviate that situation? Don’t sign the tender. The Redskins can tag him, but Cousins controls what happens next.

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Lions releasing running back Kerryon Johnson, per reports

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The Detroit Lions are releasing running back Kerryon Johnson, according to multiple reports.

Detroit drafted the former Auburn standout in the second round in 2018. Johnson became expendable after the team drafted D’Andre Swift No. 35 overall in 2020, signed free agent running back Jamaal Williams in March and drafted Oregon State’s Jermar Jefferson last week.

Johnson ran for 1,225 yards and eight touchdowns over three seasons. He also has 61 career receptions for 527 yards and three scores.

Last year, he had 181 yards rushing and two scores on 52 carries. and had 19 receptions for 187 yards receiving and a touchdown.

NFL Network first reported that Johnson would be waived.

The Lions also added a player in free agency, signing tight end Darren Fells on Wednesday. The move gives the team a veteran at the position it can put on the field with Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson.

The 35-year-old Fells has 123 career catches with 1,483 yards receiving and 21 touchdowns. The previous two years in Houston, he had a combined 55 catches for 653 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Fells has started 76 games — including 13 with the Lions in 2017 — and played in 102 games with Arizona, Detroit, Cleveland and the Texans. He was a rebounding standout at UC Irvine and played basketball in Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Finland and France before playing in the NFL.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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QB Blaine Gabbert re-signing with Tampa Bay Buccaneers on 1-year, $2.5 million deal, source says

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TAMPA, Fla. — Once again, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians has kept his word.

Days after saying the Bucs would work to re-sign Tom Brady’s top backup, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the team is indeed re-signing Gabbert to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Gabbert, who has played in 60 career games with 48 starts, previously earned $1.187 million in 2020 and $1.6 million in 2019.

Last season, Gabbert, 31, completed 9 of 16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, with all but one of those pass attempts coming in the second half against the Detroit Lions in Week 16, when Arians opted to rest Brady.

The Bucs selected quarterback Kyle Trask in the second round of the NFL draft last week, but Arians said that would not preclude them from re-signing Gabbert. The team also re-signed Ryan Griffin, who was last year’s third-string backup, earlier this offseason.

Gabbert enters his third season with the Bucs, after spending 2018 with the Tennessee Titans, 2017 with Arians and the Arizona Cardinals, 2014-16 with the San Francisco 49ers and 2011-13 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Gabbert has had an eventful offseason. In addition to attending the Kentucky Derby with Brady and Griffin on Saturday, he married longtime sweetheart Bekah Mills in Paradise Valley, Arizona, in March.

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NFL sends memo reminding clubs the league will not pay players who suffer injuries away from facilities

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The NFL reminded teams Wednesday that they are not obligated to pay players who suffer an injury away from the team facility, an issue that moved this week to the center of an ongoing dispute between the NFL and NFL Players Association over in-person participation in offseason workouts.

The memo, obtained by ESPN, was prompted by several prominent players who were surprised by media reports about Denver Broncos offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James, who tore an Achilles tendon this week while working out on his own and could miss the 2021 season. NFL contracts have long classified such injuries as “non-football,” because they happen away from the team environment, and they are not covered by typical injury guarantees. As a result, the Broncos could withhold James’ salary for as long as he is sidelined. More than $10 million would have been guaranteed if the injury had occurred at the Broncos’ facility.

The NFL has noted this contractual leverage multiple times during negotiations with the NFLPA, which has advised players to skip the voluntary portion of in-person offseason training unless they stand to lose workout bonuses.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was among those who seemed unaware of the full implications of “non-football’ injuries in comments this week on social media.

“According to the media coverage,” the NFL wrote in its memo, “several players have expressed surprise that Mr. James’ injury was not covered by his Injury Guarantee, although this point has been made frequently in our discussions with the NFLPA about the offseason program. Clubs are encouraged to remind players of the significant injury-related protection provided if they choose to work out at the club facility and the risks they undertake in choosing to train in non-NFL locations.”



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