From controlling their playoff hopes to cleaning out their lockers 12 hours later, the Washington Redskins face an uncertain off season with the potential for a major upheaval.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon head a list of 15 unrestricted free agents the Redskins must make decisions on in the coming months.
Defensive linemen Chris Baker and Kedric Golston, tight end Vernon Davis and safety Duke Ihenacho are also free agents, but the direction of the franchise begins with Cousins.
After playing for $19.95 million on the franchise tag and putting up 4,917 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season, Cousins and the front office face another potential contract stalemate.
As Jackson and Garcon hang in the balance, Cousins said the ball is in the team's court on whether to tag him again, which would come at a cost of $23.94 million.
“It's really not my decision to make,” Cousins said after throwing two interceptions in a season-ending loss to the New York Giants on Sunday.
“They chose to tag me and the same is true this year, so if they don't choose to tag me then I think that question is answered at that point.”
Negotiations last off season may have already strained the relationship between Cousins and his agent and Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan and his staff.
During a radio appearance on 106.7 The Fan on Monday, Cousins was noncommittal about whether he wanted to return and when asked if he felt wanted responded: “I think we're going to find out.”
Coach Jay Gruden said Cousins proved he belongs as an NFL starter and hopes it's in Washington.
But he's not certain that will be the case and isn't sure about Cousins' desire to be back.
“I'm sure he's got to have some goodwill toward this organization because they've put him in some good situations to succeed,” Gruden said Monday. “But as far as what he's feeling as far as negotiations are concerned, I'm sure he's going to leave it up to his agent. That's what most people do. And if they come up with a deal, if we feel like it's fair and they feel like it's fair, and we come up to one that'd be great. If not, then we'll see what happens.”
Spending almost $24 million on Cousins could affect every other decision the Redskins need to make, including Jackson and Garcon.
Rumors of Jackson returning to the Philadelphia Eagles ran rampant during the final month of the season and the 30-year-old is intrigued to see what the market might look like for him, while Garcon figures he'll wait until March for things to shake out.
“I definitely want to play here, but it's football,” Garcon said. “From January to March it's different conversations and stuff happens around the league where you can't control.
“You just have to at the end of the day give 100 percent effort on the field and teams go back and look at the plays and scout our performance all year.”
Cousins and the Redskins finished the season with the third-ranked offense and second-ranked passing offense in the league.
They were 12th in scoring offense in large part because of red zone struggles and the running game's inconsistency, but a lack of production down the stretch cost them a playoff spot.
That's the conundrum the Redskins find themselves in with so many free agents to allocate money for, especially with holes to fill on the 28th-ranked defense. The defensive line, linebackers and secondary are all areas of need.
“We definitely need some help, as you can see,” said injured safety DeAngelo Hall, who hopes to return from a torn ACL in his right knee. “We need some help in other positions around here, too.”
With his dislocated right index finger wrapped, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said in the aftermath of the loss to the Giants that part of his disappointment had to do with the impending changes in the locker room.
One could be a new defensive coordinator if Joe Barry is fired, though Gruden said the evaluation process for everyone is ongoing.
NOTE: The team signed DL A.J. Francis and Joey Mbu, WR Matt Hazel and Kendal Thompson, OL Ronald Patrick, LB Rufus Johnson, TE Wes Saxton, DB Shak Randolph and T Isaiah Williams to reserve/future contracts.