On the Politeness and Politics of Kirk Cousins and the Redskins

It’s clear that destiny brought Kirk Cousins to the nation’s capital. In his first interview since not agreeing on a long-term contract with the Washington Redskins by Monday’s deadline, the quarterback reminded all those listening that he’s very, very good at politics.

Redskins team president Bruce Allen issued/read a statement on Monday seemingly designed for dual purposes: Explain the organization’s negotiating stance and get ahead of the public relations game with fans. For the second consecutive year, Cousins would play on a one-year franchise tag. The money -- $23.94 million -- is strong. The lack of long-term stability is not.

The tone from Allen, whose family members include a former U.S. senator and head coach of the Washington Redskins, read stern and frustrated while making it clear the organization did all it could.

"Our team and fans ... they deserve to know where things stand. Our goal was to sign Kirk to a long-term contract with the final objective of having him finish his career with the Redskins."

The structured offer, as explained by Allen, while mentioning the type of money most fans can only dream of, was knocked by many in the NFL community. The primary issue for some is the lack of guaranteed dollars relative to the amount Cousins, who is coming off back-to-back impressive statistical seasons, could likely receive without committing to the Redskins long-term.

Despite the topic teed up nice and high, Cousins didn’t take a full swing.

The 28-year-old, who can amplify his “aw shucks” quality as needed while remaining incredibly savvy with every word uttered, shared his thoughts Tuesday during a lengthy interview on 106.7 The Fan with hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.


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"My take would be different than public perception," he said of Allen’s statement. "In his position you have to do that." Cousins added, "It was a great starting point. I think it was a fair offer."

Allen said in his statement that on May 2, "We made Kirk an offer that included the highest fully guaranteed amount upon signing for a quarterback in NFL history ($53 million). ... But despite our repeated attempts, we have not received any offer from Kirk’s agent this year."

Cousins: "It was closer than people would think. Even up to a week ago, I was still praying over whether we should send an offer ... but ultimately I just felt peace on not making an offer and leaving it up to the team."

During the exclusive interview -- the station pays Cousins for weekly appearances during the season -- Cousins said he needed more time to gauge whether he wanted to sign an extension. That’s a tough circle to square considering he’s been with the organization since Washington drafted him in 2012 and served as starter since 2015.

The talk of needing more time feeds into the constant buzz over a Cousins escape plan in 2018. While Washington could go offer a third franchise tag, the cost -- $34 million -- would be onerous. There’s the transition tag with a $28 million price point and the right-of-first-refusal for Washington.

However, that option allows other teams in the bidding process. Half the league could use a QB upgrade. Former Redskins offensive coordinators are now head coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Cousins came across cold or lukewarm at best over the past year with the vast majority of his public comments on returning to the Redskins. On Tuesday, the Michigan native turned up the politeness.

"It has always been my first choice to be with the Redskins, Cousins said. "When you look around the league and you see great quarterbacks, they've nearly all played for one team. ... I would love to be with the Redskins long-term. ... While the ball is in my court during the season to play football well, the ball certainly goes back to the Redskins' court to continue this process. So while there was a deadline this summer, the real deadline to make a decision of next year is next year."

He added, "If I'm getting tagged a third time, that means this season went really, really well and that would be a beautiful thing."

This second tag scenario turned ugly after Monday’s deadline came and went. It could have gone savage depending on Cousins’s comments. The quarterback punted on harsh rhetoric and turned toward hope. He explained faith drives his decisions. He laughed off Allen constantly calling him "Kurt."

None of that means anything automatically changes going forward. It also doesn’t mean Cousins, like those on Capitol Hill, wasn’t simply going for the best spin.

We probably won’t know for sure what the Redskins or Cousins thinks about a long-term deal until after the 2017 season. Former U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt once said, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” Both sides in this never-ending contract battle now have several more months for planning. If nothing changes, you can bet it’s not by accident.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.

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