WASHINGTON — Kirk Cousins will be back next season, both on the Redskins and on Grant and Danny on 106.7 The Fan.
Cousins will be leading the Redskins onto the field on Sundays (and one Thursday, one Saturday and two Mondays) during the season, then he’ll be joining hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier for Under Center With Kirk Cousins every Monday at 10:45 a.m., starting in August.
The announcement was made Monday morning on Grant and Danny, then the Redskins quarterback joined Paulsen and Rouhier for the trio’s first call of the 2016 season. Naturally, the issue on the top of the dossier was that of Cousins’ contract situation.
The Redskins, not surprisingly, placed the franchise tag on Cousins after he broke a slew of franchise records with his play in 2015. Players are sometimes less than thrilled to be tagged, even though it guarantees them an exorbitant salary, because it offers no long-term security. If the player has a down year on the tag, it hurts his chances for a big new contract.
Cousins did not have any hard feelings about the franchise tag designation, it would appear. He said GM Scot McCloughan simply called him up on March 1 and told him the team would be placing the franchise tag on him, and “it was just business as usual.”
“We had made it clear that if they were to tag me — long before they did — that we would sign it, it wouldn’t be an issue,” Cousins explained of the tagging process. “It’s not about trying to get more or whatever. I just wanted to sign it and get back to work, and focus on winning football games. That’s what we did. It made for a simple deal, a simple process, and it’s just good to know I’ll be back for another year and can concentrate on the job now.”
As for his future contract situation, Cousins isn’t worried about the possibility that things could go downhill for him. He has nothing but the utmost confidence in his ability, and he holds no ill will toward the Redskins for their decision to tag him. When Paulsen wondered if Cousins would have a problem playing under the insecure financial conditions of the franchise tag, the former Michigan State quarterback expressed a clear understanding of the process and why he, in the eyes of the team, hasn’t earned a long-term deal yet.
“That’s a great question, and I think the simple answer is that I’m content playing on the franchise tag. I think that people make great decisions when they have a lot of information at their disposal, and if the Redskins would like more information from this next season to be able to make a decision on me long-term, I totally understand that and understand where they’re coming from. If they feel like they have enough information and want to make that call right now, then great, too. But I think the ball’s in their court and I will react accordingly to whatever decision they make. But I am totally comfortable playing more football, and frankly if I don’t play well next season, I don’t deserve to be back. I don’t deserve a long-term deal. So I want to go out and earn it, and prove myself, and if I need to prove myself again, that’s fine. I’ll go see if I can do that.”
Later in the call, Paulsen broached the contract conversation again with Cousins, asking how likely it was that he, his agent and the team could work out a long-term deal before the season began.
“I think there’s a chance,” Cousins said. “Like I said, the ball is in the court of the Redskins, and they can do what they want and they have that right. By no means am I, or are we, going to try to force their hand in any way. They can do what they want and we’re going to react accordingly, but if they call, I’ll pick up the phone. We’ll see where it goes from here.”
As for non-contract talk, the Redskins quarterback had plenty to say in the nearly 15-minute interview.
For example, one of the primary concerns for him heading into the 2016 season was his ability to handle all-out blitzes. He’s been working on that with the team in OTAs, and he said he wants to be able to turn some of those blitzes into big plays for the offense next season.
“Well I think specifically, to get into the X’s and O’s of it, I was just talking today with the coaches about how we want to be much better against Cover 0, all-out blitzes. When teams bring all-out blitzes, we want to be better as an offense, as a quarterback, in making people pay for rolling the dice and bringing the house on us. We felt like last year we let too many plays get away from us, where we could have had a chance at a big play and didn’t make it happen.”
However, not all adjustments can be made by simply improving your play on the field. On-field performance is the biggest component of the job, but it’s far from the only component. Cousins, who is only in his first full offseason as the starting quarterback, says he is gradually slipping into the role of the team leader, but it’s a process he needs to endure.
“Overall, I think just asserting myself more as a leader. You know, stepping up vocally, being a little more confident in asserting myself that way. That comes with time, you earn that. It takes time, but I think after last season, and having played more now, I can do that, and I look forward to that opportunity,” Cousins said. “I think first-team reps are important because typically everybody gets reps in the offseason, but the first team is gonna get a few more, so you’re going to get a few more and you’re gonna build chemistry with those first-string players that you’re gonna end up playing the majority of the season alongside. So that’s important. Just like any other job, the NFL quarterbacking gig is no different. With experience and with time, you get better and you get better and you get better, and you get more confident, and that helps you play better. I can feel myself on that growth process, but it’s a journey, and I by no means feel like I’ve arrived or feel like I’ve got things figured out, it’s just a process of always trying to learn more and more. I can feel myself in the middle of that journey right now, and I’m excited to see where it ends up leading us.”
He then elaborated on the differences between being the top backup, as he was in each of his four previous offseasons in the NFL, to being the starter. Or, as Paulsen phrased it, how things have changed now that it’s his team.
“Well I think I’m still going to be the same person, but there’s no doubt that you can earn opportunities to be a little more vocal, and I didn’t have that opportunity in the past,” Cousins said. “I hadn’t earned it, so I kept to myself, and I think now, the ability to share ideas, share thoughts, speak to the team, have more input, all that is gonna help. It’s gonna help our offense, it’s gonna keep everybody on the same page. I think it’s important to have good player leaders and guys who, on the field, can be really making a difference in the huddle and keeping guys all going in the same direction. So I look forward to that challenge, it’s never easy, but I think that is a big difference — that I haven’t been a leader as much in the offseason program, looking at four of the past seasons, and now I have that opportunity and I want to take full advantage.”
Finally, Cousins was asked about the addition of All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, who was signed to a record deal on April 22. Norman will not only contribute on the field during the regular season, but he makes life much more difficult for Cousins in practice, who will now have to find his receivers among a cloud of defensive backs that features Norman, Bashaud Breeland and Chris Culliver.
This is something Cousins himself pointed out when the signing became official.
Cousins told Paulsen and Rouhier the signing shows how seriously the team takes winning, and that encourages him going forward.
“It’s just great to see your organization go out and make something happen and show they want to win,” Cousins said of the big splash signing. “It’s just so cool, and much like the fans, I’m sure, are excited, as a player you get excited. You’re thrilled to see your team give you that opportunity, give you a talented player like that. I had the opportunity to train with him going into the NFL, down at IMG before we were drafted, so I got to know him a little bit. I’m excited to have him as a teammate. Practice will be that much more competitive. Not that we weren’t competing before, but boy, you bring in a guy like that that’s not only a great player, but a great personality, I think our receivers will have a lot of fun with that. We will be going back and forth. It should make practice that much more fun and that much more competitive. That’s gonna make us better, and that’s what we’re trying to do. So I guess I’m excited just like everybody else to see that first day of practice and just get out there and start making plays against each other.”
The entire call is below, featuring other nuggets, including what he did during the offseason, where he went, the brutal schedule the Redskins have in 2016, what it’s like to be getting back into the rhythm of the season and how he’s overcome some of the struggles he endured early in the season.