By Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins may not have reached the outcome they would prefer, but their 2015 season brought clarity to at least one franchise-stabilizing question.

Kirk Cousins, in his first full season as an NFL starter, proved beyond the shadow of a doubt his capability of leading the offense. Now, it’s payment time.

Cousins, 27, is set to become a free agent with his rookie contract expiring at the start of the league year, but the Redskins can prevent him from ever reaching that point with the franchise tag, which can serve to keep him in Washington for another year or to extend their bargaining window into next summer.

On Monday, Cousins was asked during his weekly radio appearance with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier if he’d prefer to strike a deal quickly or enjoy free agency for the first time in his career.

“You know, I don’t really know how it all works, but with the franchise tag being a wrinkle in the whole process, I’m not even sure what that would do for my ability to test the waters,” he answered. “That will come I believe before really free agency can even begin and typically deadlines tend to be when things get done, so I see it probably lasting a while, or at least not even having anything happen for a while, but I don’t know. I’m just kind of guessing.

“We’ll see where it takes us, but the franchise window will be the first step and then from there to free agency, and again, I guess the ball is kind of in the Redskins’ court with that, because they can place that tag on me and there’s no input or decision that I would have along those lines.”

Despite the franchise tag ensuring a player is paid an average of the top five salaries at his position, many players frown upon being franchise tagged, rejecting the thought of being deprived the opportunity to be courted by other teams, as they’ve worked so hard to do, or putting off long-term financial stability for another year.

Cousins doesn’t appear to see it that way, at least not when asked whether he’d like to avoid being franchise tagged if possible.

“Yeah, I think when you look at the dollars and cents of it, like you said, to be paid among the top five in your position… why wouldn’t you like that?” he said.

“I think guys love having a long-term plan, love kind of knowing where they’re going to be, feeling like they can settle in, and the peace of mind that comes with that I think is what guys like. But for me, I’ll be happy either way. I think it’s kind of a win-win either way, and I think it was important for me to play well this season and earn the opportunity to be in a win-win situation, and while it wasn’t perfect, I think we’ve been able to do that and now it’s just a matter of figuring out what’s best for the team and best for me, and try to find a happy balance where we can operate with success for a long time going forward.”

Several weeks ago, Cousins spoke of his upcoming free agent status, saying, “I want to be where I’m wanted,” while also adding, “we’ll find out where I’m wanted in a few months.”

Cousins was asked again, with Washington’s season now over, if  he feels wanted by the franchise.

“I think to this point we haven’t really discussed the specifics of that, but I do feel believed in here,” he said. “I feel like this organization, they put their necks on the line for me at the start of the season, and so that says a lot right there.”

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