With Extension, Jay Gruden’s Fate No Longer Tied to Kirk Cousins

WASHINGTON — With ongoing tumult over GM Scot McCloughan’s future with the Redskins, and the sudden extension of Jay Gruden through 2020 serving as a nice distraction, there is another pressing question at the center of the organization’s existence.

What does the future hold for Kirk Cousins and how might it be affected by Jay Gruden’s extension? There are two scenarios which could play out in short order; one results in Cousins leaving, the other in him staying long term — both are now more possible with Gruden’s extension.

The Redskins announced ahead of last week’s franchise tag deadline that they had, for the second straight offseason, extended the tag to Cousins, this year’s version being the exclusive. Mike McCartney, Cousins’ agent, appeared to take that as a positive sign toward future talks.

“A player, when his contract is up, looks forward to going to free agency to see what his value is on the open market,” McCartney told NFL Network. “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.”

One would figure that extending Gruden was, in no small way, another sign of good faith shown toward Cousins’ camp at ensuring continuity.

But the fact remains, Cousins has yet to sign the franchise tender, for which there could be many reasons. Perhaps Cousins is enjoying his offseason — as a matter of fact, he just announced his wife, Julie, is pregnant with the couple’s first child — and sees no need to rush back to Redskins Park.

Then there was Friday’s absurd trade rumor, that the Redskins — despite team president Bruce Allen publicly downplaying the possibility of trading Cousins — had discussed a potential three-way deal involving the Cowboys and 49ers which could bring Tony Romo to Washington. Although, there is some question as to whether Allen was responsible for that rumor.

Prior to Sunday’s extension news, Gruden’s future in Washington seemed to be linked to Cousins — for whom he stood on the table in 2015 — and any significant change at quarterback might have signaled the end was near for the coach. But now Gruden’s here until 2020, or at least getting paid like it, so that’s no longer the case.

Could the end now be near for Cousins instead?

Albert Breer offers some analysis for The MMQB:

One source described the vibe in DC succinctly: “Just a bunch of strange s—.”

There are lots of dominoes that have to fall soon. As for the big one, I don’t think the Skins are afraid to lose Cousins, and the reason is Colt McCoy. Is the 30-year-old McCoy a 10-year answer for Washington at the position? No. But he can be what Cousins can’t be at this point, and that’s a bridge quarterback, which is why the question isn’t Cousins versus McCoy in a vacuum. It’s the brass buying Cousins and hitching its job security to his successes and failures, versus renting McCoy while looking for a younger upgrade at the position.

The latter would be risky as hell, to be sure, and I wouldn’t call it likely. But the Redskins do believe they can win in the short term with McCoy, and there’s a feeling that it’d be better to just resolve the Cousins situation now—whether it’s giving him a new deal or trading him—and not setting up to be in this position again in spring 2018.

In the way of stability, the Redskins have essentially protected themselves for either outcome by extending Gruden. Gruden, too, now has his own security, in that he’s no longer tied to a quarterback who may not be around in 2018.

What comes next will be telling for the long-term outlook of the Redskins offense.

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.

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