Does Kirk Cousins not want to be in Washington?

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The Washington Post / Getty

The prevailing sentiment over the last year has been that it's only a matter of time before the Washington Redskins reward Kirk Cousins with a long-term deal.

A career-best season under the franchise tag virtually assured that the Redskins would do everything they could to bring him back, and Cousins would almost certainly look to capitalize on the leverage necessary to be made one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks.

But that's all assuming Cousins actually wants to be in Washington long term.

As Jason Reid of ESPN reports, citing multiple former Redskins officials, perhaps we shouldn't be so sure that's the case.

The Redskins were never going to let Cousins walk away as a free agent, so a second franchise tag is a no-brainer in the event that a long-term deal isn't reached by the upcoming deadline.

Suggesting that Cousins wants to receive the tag can likely be considered an acknowledgement of the fact that, be it this year or next, the one-year tender provides him with his best escape route.

The 44 percent pay increase required for a third use of the franchise tag makes it highly unlikely that Cousins would receive the designation in 2018, so playing out this season and cashing in on the open market would have to be an attractive option.

There's also a possibility that a quarterback-needy team, like the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, or Chicago Bears, could swoop in with a blockbuster trade offer after Cousins gets the tag this offseason.

Either way, getting the tag and a fully guaranteed $23.94-million salary isn't such a bad deal if he indeed has his sights set elsewhere.

Odd as it may be to see a well-established starting quarterback wanting to move on, the Redskins have been no strangers to dysfunction over the years. As Reid's followup tweets would appear to suggest, it's certainly possible that there's more to the story:

Cousins is coming off a highly productive 2016 campaign in which he led a third-ranked Washington offense with completions on 67 percent of passes for 4,917 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.

The Redskins will have until March 1 to apply the franchise tag. Free agency officially opens at 4 p.m. on March 9, at which point teams are also permitted to complete trades.