If it wasn't obvious before, it sure is now: Kirk Cousins wants to hit free agency.
Unfettered, free to the market. Capitalism in its purest form.
And why shouldn't he? As the Redskins quarterback has repeatedly explained, Cousins has not been able to pick where he played football since 2008. That was when he elected to attend Michigan State for college. As a professional, he's been forced to play for the Redskins since 2012.
He will turn 30 in August, and wants to shape his future. Cousins explained his decision will not be just about money, but control.
"Money is not the driving factor in this decision to go another 16 games,” Cousins said last week in a radio event with 106.7 the Fan's Grant and Danny. “It’s just not what I’ve built my life on. That’s not what it’s about."
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What does that mean for the Redskins?
Cousins talked at length last week with about his future (video above), and while he didn't make much clear, he doubled down on a position Redskins fans should remember.
In 2017, Cousins and his representatives decided not to engage in contract negotiations with the Redskins. Washington made an offer that included $54 million guaranteed and showed Cousins the Redskins "were all in last summer."
Still, despite his team being "all in," Cousins and his camp decided not to talk about a long-term deal. Instead, the QB played on a one-year deal that paid him $24 million.
That wasn't the first time Cousins eschewed a multi-year deal with Washington.
Speaking last week, Cousins explained that late in the 2015 season, the Redskins tried to sign their passer to a contract extension. As Cousins tells the story, the offer came before the Redskins played the Bears in early December 2015. His agent, Mike McCartney, told the quarterback to turn down the offer.
“Going into this game, I’m thinking I kind of like the comfort and security the Redskins are offering. But Mike said, you don’t want to do this, you want to go play this out and then go from there. Well, I was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month those last four games, we won all four and we went to the playoffs and the rest is history.”
As for “the rest is history,” well, Cousins is right.
Since refuting the Redskins' offer in 2015, the organization has twice used a franchise tag to keep Cousins. In turn, he’s made $44 million the last two seasons, more than almost every other NFL player during the same time.
Washington should have made a stronger effort in 2016 to sign Cousins before using the first franchise tag. The team didn’t, and it was a big mistake.
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In 2017, however, the team tried. Cousins wouldn’t talk, even though he admitted the offer was legitimate.
In 2018, is it even worth trying for the Redskins?
The evidence is clear: Cousins wants to be a free agent.
Cousins’ self-described timeline for negotiations will force Washington team president Bruce Allen to use either another franchise tag or a transition tag before the deadline in early March. While Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has made clear he doesn't want his quarterback playing on another one-year deal, Cousins reiterated that he doesn't mind.
"I'm OK with a one-year deal. It doesn’t scare me a whole lot, I’m OK with it, I think it’s a very fair contract and I don’t have any quarrel with it so I would just sign and go play football," he said.
Everybody knows what's at stake. The Redskins could lose their franchise record holder for passing yards in a season, and the first QB to ever start 16 games three years in a row. He has said almost all the right things, but Cousins has never truly commited to the Redskins. Washington has made multiple missteps in the process, but at this point, it seems that Cousins' priority is testing the market and controlling his future. In 2018, or beyond.
Either tag him, or Cousins will hit free agency.
And that’s exactly what the quarterback wants.
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