WASHINGTON — The Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins have just over eight weeks to agree to a long-term contract extension before an NFL-imposed deadline strikes July 15.
Neither side is expressing much concern in public. On Monday at linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s annual charity golf tournament, Washington coach Jay Gruden said he was “not going to be concerned about it.” Cousins expressed the same sentiment during a Wednesday appearance on Redskins Nation.
“There are so many guys on this team on one-year deals. Even if it says it’s a three or four-year contract, really the only guarantees are this year,” Cousins told Redskins Nation. “Many of us are playing on one-year deals. I’m not the only one and we’re not going to have careers if we don’t have a great year this year. So we all don’t look much further than this season.”
It’s a line of thought Cousins has expressed repeatedly this offseason. Only a handful of NFL contracts are so onerous that teams can’t escape them without a significant hit to their salary cap and none are fully guaranteed anyway.
Cousins will play on the franchise tag for a second year in a row. This time the price is $23.9 million. Washington’s long-term offers over the last 12 months have been rebuffed. Cousins and agent Mike McCartney haven’t seen one yet that’s made them jump. But that doesn’t worry Gruden, who isn’t looking beyond 2017. For now.
“I know he’s gonna be here this season,” Gruden said. “That’s all I care about and whatever happens happens with him and his agent and our organization. But I’m excited to coach Kirk for the third year in a row.”
This will be Cousins’ third year as the starting quarterback and Gruden’s fourth year overall. The Redskins insist they have options if no deal is in place by July 15. That includes the transition tag ($28.7 million) or one more year on the franchise tag ($34.4 million) in 2018. That price seems untenable for one player in a league where the salary cap is unlikely to extend beyond $175 million in 2018.
Washington hopes that its situation is enough to sell Cousins. It has posted consecutive winning seasons and surrounded him with weapons at tight end and wide receiver and a good offensive line. Cousins routinely mentions the franchise’s rich history with three Super Bowls and how much he and his wife, Julie, love the Washington area.
That’s all talk, though. Numbers matter in this case and the next eight weeks could be the decisive factor in Cousins staying beyond this season. If a long-term deal doesn’t happen, the Redskins still maintain hope that Cousins will look around the league and see the best fit for him here with a coaching staff that went to bat for him in 2015 and put him in position to set the franchise passing record in consecutive seasons.
“He’s got two good years under his belt in our system,” Gruden said. “I think it’s going to be very good for him. You’re going to see major growth from him again. Love to have him for a long-term deal, but this is the year I’m worried about.”
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