by Rick Snider

It’s money time for Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.

With the team leaking a report it needs to see a strong finish by the passer or else it will let him enter free agency next year, Cousins is once more on the clock. The same clock that has already rang up $44 million over the last two seasons and would bring another $34 million next year if the Redskins franchise tag him for the third straight season.

Even coach Jay Gruden conceded the final weeks mean big money to free agents, and Cousins is one of the team’s 18 next season.

“It’s kind of like baseball – October right? Mr. October?” Gruden said. “Those are the money games. You have to put yourself in position though the first 12 weeks to make October, or whatever month we are in – November, December – worthwhile. That’s part of it, too. Consistency is very important, but the bigger the game, the bigger the show you want your quarterback to have. Hopefully, [Cousins] will put himself in a position where he can make the plays at critical times.”

Cousins is on target for his third straight 4,000-yard season. While that would be nearly 1,000 yards less than his team record last year, it’s still impressive given the passer is the only offensive regular who hasn’t been injured this season. The team has lost its top two running backs, receiver Terrelle Pryor, Sr., and seen the offensive line and tight end Jordan Reed miss time.

“Sometimes you’re going to have moving . . . or some change on offense,” Gruden said. “You’re going to have to adjust to that personnel-wise. That’s the case on every NFL team right now. Could be a new center, could be a new wideout, could be a new running back, whatever it is. We’ve just had a lot of new pieces. There’s only been three starters – I think him, Vernon [Davis] and Morgan Moses – the whole year. [Cousins has] done a nice job of taking care of his business, but I think his comfort level in the offense is starting to show where it doesn’t really matter who he’s playing with, he’s going to be successful.”

Despite the offense sputtering at times, Gruden sees Cousins playing his best ball.

“You would be a blind man if you don’t see him making huge strides throughout his career,” Gruden said. “So I have been impressed with Kirk [Cousins] and his progress. I just think there is so much more for him to grab as far as getting better and better. The sky is the limit for him.”

Or at least a mountain of money.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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