A few days after placing the exclusive franchise tag on their quarterback, Kirk Cousins' agent said initial contract talks with the Redskins are "moving in a positive direction." Speaking on NFL Network's Good Morning Football, Cousins' agent Mike McCartney talked at length about the "unique" circumstances surrounding his client and the organization (video here).
"The Redskins had let us know how much they value Kirk and how they see him as a franchise quarterback," McCartney said. "I do think it was a question of whether they were going to put the exclusive tag or the non-exclusive tag on him. When they put the exclusive tag on him they tried to send a message that, 'Hey, Kirk is our guy, we believe in him.' We took that the right way."
In 2016, the Redskins placed the non-exclusive tag on Cousins. In 2017, the team went with the exclusive tag, meaning Cousins and McCartney are not able to shop their services freely to other teams in the NFL. For some that seemed like a message that the team wanted to keep their passer, and clearly, Cousins' camp viewed it that way.
The biggest takeaway came when McCartney revealed he met with the Redskins chief contract negotiator Eric Schaffer Wednesday night.
"Eric Schaffer is the cap guy for the Redskins and he and I visited last night. We’ve had good dialogue," McCartney said. "We're moving in a positive direction, we're trying to keep everything upbeat."
Contract talks broke down early on in 2016, and it seems both the team and McCartney are trying to avoid that this year.
"I think Eric and I are working really hard so there is not animosity. I think that's really important. The last thing I want as Kirk’s partner in this for him to go to work mad at his employer. At the end of the day his employer is still paying him well," the agent said. "Kirk isn’t necessarily motivated by the same things many other players are so I want him to enjoy work. And I take that very seriously, and I think Eric certainly takes that seriously from the club perspective."
It's interesting that the club and agent even have to consider animosity, but considering how wildly different the sides were in 2016 onthe value of a long-term deal, it makes sense.
"We don’t agree on everything, by any chance, but we're really trying to work through that to make sure we have a positive dialogue and partnership through this," McCartney said.
Jay Gruden talked Wednesday and said repeatedly that he is optimistic about getting a deal done for Cousins, and even suggested that the Redskins "maybe do a better job" in contract talks.
Optimism and positive dialogue are great, but ultimately, this thing will come down to money. The Redskins will open up the vault, or they won't. That doesn't mean McCartney doesn't understand the significance of the exclusive tag, and with it, a guaranteed $24 million payday.
"At the end of the day they’re the ones that placed the franchise tag on him. A player, when his contract is up, looks forward to going to free agency to see what his value is on the open market. This is the second straight year that’s been taken away from Kirk so the Redskins did say something about, ‘Hey, this guy is worth $24 million.’ Kirk didn’t ask for the franchise tag, I didn’t ask for the franchise tag. Still it’s a heck of a commitment from the club, and we view it that way."
Perhaps what makes the Cousins situation so interesting is that it's just so unusual. McCartney also recognized that.
"It's definitely unique. I think with Kirk being a fourth rounder who didn’t play a whole lot his first three years, and then the last year of his contract, it was kind of the perfect storm. The first half of the  season it was a little bit up and down, and then those last nine games, he just soared. He took off and took the Redskins into the playoffs, and then, his contract is up. So from a leverage standpoint it was unique for a quarterback to play his best football as his contract is expiring."
Sure it's early in the process, but the glasses on the negotiation table for a long-term deal between Kirk Cousins and the Redskins appear to be half full. For now.
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