Weeks before signing the franchise tag and numerous times after putting pen to paper, Kirk Cousins answered questions about his contract situation. That the Washington Redskins quarterback provided actual answers became clear to some only recently.
Because Cousins tactfully bit his tongue for three seasons, because he rarely went off script during his first "You like that" year as the starter and because he channels boy-next-door vibes, overlooking the informative part of the contract responses was easy. View Cousins as he is -- a fiery competitor drafted into a dismal scenario behind an adored (and perceived) franchise quarterback - and you recognize the honesty.
With both sides apparently set to take a knee before Friday's 4 p.m. deadline, Cousins will likely play the 2016 season on a one-year deal for just shy of $20 million.
This result isn't shocking even if many didn't pick up the clues until the final days. This time is his time. After holding back for the sake of doing the right thing, screw that mindset now. Cousins is betting on himself while taking control after years of staying quiet.
Good. Good for Cousins and, based on how he performed under each mentality, good for the Redskins.
The Redskins, or at least some of the main decision-makers, apparently aren't sold. They want to see at least another productive season before paying Pro Bowl QB money. The quarterback, playing during an era where there aren't nearly enough of his kind for all 32 NFL teams, is passing on lowering his average yearly salary to a more salary cap-friendly number for more immediate financial security.
Again, this isn't a recently developed take, at least not here. Cousins said the following during a radio interview on June 3.
"There really is no new news. Pretty much the same story," Cousins told the radio hosts when they asked the obligatory contract update question.
He could have put a bow on the non-answer there and moved on. Instead Cousins added a bit more.
"As we've said before, the reason I signed the franchise tag as quickly as I did was because I felt it to be a great opportunity for me, a good contract. I really have no issue with it. In order to sign an additional contract beyond that, it would need to be a deal that puts me in a great opportunity, a great spot because already the franchise tag does that. I'm very content and ready to go play. What's important is the coming season, the 2016 season. Fortunately I'm under contract with the Skins. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. It's a great opportunity to get the job done," he concluded.
Believe that Cousins wants to be in Washington. Also realize how grasping the precious nature of having one of 32 highly coveted, life-altering jobs factors into the equation.
Cousins was drafted into a confusing and ridiculous scenario where two college stars were selected by the same QB-needy franchise in the same year. Nobody argued against the idea that Robert Griffin III would receive every opportunity for stardom after Washington traded precious high draft picks for the Heisman Trophy winner.
The idea of resentment from Cousins for being brought into a one-sided scenario wasn't just dismissed, it was never considered plausible by those who viewed him as mere property and not a competitor. The Redskins needed a backup for RG3, so the Michigan State guy should hold the clipboard behind the Baylor standout and do so quietly.
Because Cousins is clearly well-versed in the art of politics, he played his part. That he did is why during his first offseason as a NFL starter, he talked about taking ownership now. Because that wasn't an option before.
Problem: By keeping his inner Peacock in check, Cousins didn't bring attitude onto the field during playing opportunities largely created by Griffin's injuries. Though he displayed assertive tendencies, confidence lacked. Almost as if Cousins sensed no matter what he did, he wouldn't get the job. That was also reality until Jay Gruden completed one season as head coach and cast member of the relentless Ashburn soap opera.
Signs pointed to an opening. Griffin's rapid decline sped up the process. Cousins was named starter shortly before the 2015 season opener.
Though he entered 2015's training camp, his final one under his rookie contract, edgier than normal, it wasn't until a few weeks into the season that he reached peak plumage. Not talking stats, but confidence. The 31-30 Week 7 win against Tampa Bay from 24 points down, the largest comeback in franchise history, showed the naysayers Cousins could play. The impromptu and efficient postgame rant, complete with finger-pointing, verified which Kirk Cousins was taking snaps and that he was in command.
The Redskins could take command of the contract situation and pay the QB now rather than risk outlaying more guaranteed dollars next offseason.
The Cousins who bit his tongue for three seasons would probably take the bird in the hand and say thanks for the chance. The Cousins who persevered and rewrote the franchise record book isn't backing off. Good. That version directed an NFC East title run. Regardless of what happens, that's the Cousins everyone should want playing for the Redskins.
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