WASHINGTON – Everybody in Washington has an opinion on whether the Redskins will re-sign quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term contract.
Former general manager Scot McCloughan was involved in those discussions over the last 18 months and even he is still intrigued about the direction Cousins and Washington will go.
“I hope they do get a long-term deal done,” McCloughan said in an exclusive interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant and Danny program on Tuesday. “Because I’m telling you, he’s high character, he’s a good football player, he’s smart, he’s a good teammate, he’s got good leadership qualities.”
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McCloughan wasn’t always so sold. Cousins struggled early in training camp in 2015 and he wondered if there was anyone on the roster who could play the position at a high level. By the end of that August though, McCloughan supported head coach Jay Gruden’s contention that Cousins – and not Robert Griffin III – had to be the starter.
Cousins repaid their faith in full by starting 32 straight games, setting the franchise passing record in consecutive seasons and leading the Redskins to an NFC East title and the playoffs in 2015. Cousins turns 29 on Aug. 19 and will play on the franchise tag for the second year in a row at $23.9 million. But how much better can he get?
“I think his ceiling is where it’s at right now with people around him. He’s a good football player,” McCloughan said. “He’s a quarterback that’s proven that he can win a division and that’s hard to find. To have a chance for two years in a row to go to the playoffs – that’s what you look for. But, again, that’s why the draft is so important. Because you’ve got to surround everybody with good football players.”
That’s always been McCloughan’s philosophy. Paying top-tier money to a quarterback means there’s not enough under the salary cap to keep key offensive linemen, defensive linemen or cornerbacks. But McCloughan also says Cousins has some of the same leadership qualities as other successful quarterbacks he has worked closely with: Brett Favre in Green Bay and Russell Wilson and Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle.
“The thing about it that’s so important is: Identify early, re-sign and go forward,” McCloughan said. “Because when you get in the building once you draft them then you know exactly how they are in the training room, you know exactly how they are in the weight room, you know exactly how they are in the locker room, in the meeting room.”
McCloughan added: “All of the sudden you start identifying that and extending them, then the other players are like ‘Wow, they’ve got a culture to take care of their own.’ When you go out and spend too much stuff in free agency, which I’ve never been a big fan of, you’re getting guys that are not Redskins. They’re Dolphins. They’re whatever.”
Cousins has been anything but whatever in his two seasons as the starter. But the July 15 deadline to sign an extension will dominate conversation the next two months. Cousins and his agent, Mike McCartney, will have conversations with Washington team president Bruce Allen and Eric Schaffer, vice president of football administration. The Redskins could use the franchise tag one last time for 2018 ($34.4 million) or try the transition tag ($28.7 million). More than likely, Cousins will hit the open market as a free agent next march if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal by July 15.
“It’s too bad it didn’t happen. But that was an organizational thing,” McCloughan said of the decision not to extend Cousins sooner when the price might have been much lower. “It just didn’t happen. For his standpoint, I wish the best for him. He’s going to make a lot of money this year and he’s earned it.”
McCloughan demurred when asked directly about reports this offseason that he’d once strongly advocated signing Cousins as soon as possible to avoid just this situation. But he also insisted McCartney has some responsibility, too, about a long-term deal not getting done by last summer’s deadline. Cousins played on the franchise tag in 2016 ($19.95 million).
“It’s a big business and the agent’s got to be understandable that they’re involved in it, too. It’s not just us and the player,” McCloughan said. “The agent has to be able to understand ‘If you don’t tender him, I can make this for the next five years for him.’ It just didn’t work out. But I’m pulling for Kirk. He’s been nothing but great to me, I’ve been nothing but great to him. The coaches like him a lot. The players like him a lot. He’s gonna be successful – here or somewhere else.”
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