Playing in the last year of his rookie contract in 2015, Kirk Cousins ranked as one of the worst-paid starting quarterbacks in the NFL. That changed, significantly, this offseason when Cousins signed his franchise tender, a contract that guaranteed he would be paid nearly $20 million for the 2016 season.
"His wife must have hugged me for 10 minutes because he just went from making $600,000 to $19.9 million," Redskins GM Scot McCloughan told Bleacher Report of the moments surrounding Cousins signing his one-year deal.
In a wide-ranging interview with BR, McCloughan talked about his philosophy of developing players, and when the time comes, doling out big contracts to players that have earned them. One such player could be Cousins, and McCloughan explained he's already had that talk with his QB.
"I told him, 'You take care of me and this organization, we’re going to take care of you. I promise,'" McCloughan said to Cousins. "'And we’re going to build this roster to where you can be average and still be good. I promise you.'"
The comments come at an interesting time in the negotiations on a long-term deal for Cousins. The Redskins have until mid-July to work a multi-year contract with Cousins before the franchise deal locks in for 2016, though what McCloughan's "promise" might mean could be interpreted a few different ways. Perhaps the GM needs to see the QB deliver another strong season for the 'Skins, and then he will get paid. The other side could argue that McCloughan needs Cousins to be reasonable in his demands for a long-term contract and both sides can reach an agreement.
Without parsing McCloughan's words too much, the "average" line also stands out. Likely, McCloughan is telling his quarterback that the team around him will continue to improve, so much that all the pressure will not fall to the quarterback. Washington's GM even said that his decision to franchise Cousins was panned elsewhere.
"We did the franchise tag, and I know everybody made fun of me, and that’s fine. But you know what? The guy won the division. They won nine games. They won four games the year before and turned around and won nine."
The reality of the NFL - despite the Broncos recent Super Bowl win with a very limited Peyton Manning at QB - is that to really compete at the highest level a team must have a strong passer.
"Let me overpay him if he’s good. If you have a productive guy, it helps everything, and it proves out," McCloughan said of the need for a great QB. "You look around this league and see the teams that are in the playoffs every year and look who the quarterbacks are. Look at the ones who win. It proves out."
Good quarterbacks do indeed tend to "prove out." Division titles, playoff wins, those types of things rarely occur with poor quarterback play. For a season, Cousins looked like that guy for Washington. If he can do it again, there will be lots of money for Cousins. McCloughan promised.