Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is in no hurry to make any decisions about his future.
Asked for his offseason timeline during his weekly 106.7 The Fan segment — ‘Under Center,’ driven by the Lindsay Automotive Group — with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, Cousins said he’ll let the nature of the NFL’s offseason structure take its course.
“I’m in no hurry,” he said. “The structure of the offseason and the way the league is set up, a lot of stuff happens in March, and so that’s when I expect things to take place. Between now and then, I don’t want to be spinning my wheels trying to get things done that aren’t going to get done.”
The Redskins have until March 6 at 4 p.m. to decide whether they will franchise (or transition) tag Cousins for the third and final year, a decision they can make as early as Feb. 20. Up until that point, they can — if both parties are willing — begin to negotiate a long-term deal.
“I’m in no hurry,” he reiterated. “I’m gonna go to Michigan this week, just quickly, and then get back here to D.C. for our event on Friday, and then head down to Atlanta and spend time with family and spend time with my son and just relax.”
Cousins is making an appearance with 106.7 The Fan Friday, Jan. 5 at Jammin’ Java, where he’ll review the Redskins’ 2017 season and speak exclusively about his uncertain future. Tickets can be purchased here. All proceeds benefit the DC Dream Center, a community organization which inspires local youths and adults to realize their potential.
“But at the same time, I like to get back to work right away,” Cousins went on. “I’ve learned that my body operates best by just continuing to train and throw and not taking too much time off. I’ll be watching the playoffs like everybody else, and already starting to kind of build up and build back up for next year.”
As a three-year starter, Cousins says he’s learned to watch the playoffs differently. No longer does he just turn his brain off and watch passively, but rather he continues studying, observing defenses and situations which can help him improve as a player.
“As I’ve played more and grown in this league,” he said, “I’ve found myself more and more frustrated that we’re not playing. I find myself watching it more as a student, studying situations and defenses, and really, having played now, I have a better understanding of what it takes.”
“I think this will be the first year where I watch the playoffs, and watch the top teams, and feel like the Redskins are not that far from that,” he noted. “I think when you look at teams like the Saints and the Vikings, and how we went toe to toe with them, played them really well and moved the football, you know, I don’t know that that was the case back in 2015.”
“We went and played Carolina; they were the top team in the NFC and they took it to us,” he said of 2015. “And I watched that Super Bowl — Carolina and Denver — and said, ‘You know, I don’t feel like we’re there yet. We still have a ways to go.’ This year, I feel like I’m gonna watch the NFC and feel like we’re right there. I mean, whether it’s the Rams, the Vikings, the Saints — I just feel like we played them all tough and have a lot of reason to feel good about our chances next year and where the team is headed. So I think that’s an encouraging thing to take away.”
As Cousins embarks on his third straight offseason in which he potentially faces free agency, the quarterback believes, despite the Redskins finishing only 7-9, he greatly improved as a passer in 2017, and disproved yet another negative narrative about himself along the way.
“I think the narrative after the last two seasons was: he’s basically dependent on having Pro Bowl receivers around him and a Pro Bowl tight end, and he won’t be able to do that if he doesn’t have that,” Cousins said.
The Redskins made history last offseason, becoming the first team in NFL history to let two 1,000-yard receivers — in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson — walk in one free agency period.
Further hampering team success, the Redskins finished the season with 20 players on Injured Reserve. Six of those players — Trent Williams, Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor, Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao and Robert Kelley — were Week 1 starters. Chris Thompson — who racked up 804 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns, primarily as a change-of-pace back through 10 games — was Washington’s most productive offensive target in 2017.
Despite these setbacks, Cousins still recorded 4,093 passing yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, with an additional 179 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
“With some of the injuries this year, and letting some guys go in free agency, that wasn’t the same story, and yet, we were still able to move the ball and be productive, and I think that was where maybe I was able to show some growth as a player. I’m excited, again, for where that could lead in the future, because every year I’ve gotten better, so as I move forward, I like to think that’ll continue to happen.”
In terms of team accomplishments in 2017, Cousins admits Sunday’s season-ending 18-10 loss to division rival New York certainly put a damper on the perception of the season.
“I think the last game certainly made it feel a little different,” he said. “And I’d like to think that one game doesn’t change the landscape of a whole season, but I think, certainly, when you start to look at numbers, it can sway it a little bit.
“No, I do feel like when you start to factor in all that took place. I also felt like, from a schedule standpoint, we played really good teams, really good defenses, we went to a lot of tough environments.”
Cousins believes this season proved, even with his continued growth in 2017, that he still has room to grow as an individual, that he’s yet to reach his ceiling as a quarterback.
“No, I was pleased with the way that I continued to improve,” he said. “We’ve talked about that, that continuous improvement. I just don’t feel like I’ve plateaued as a player. There may be some people that say ‘okay, he kind of is what he is now,’ but I think that I’m continuing to get better, the game’s slowing down and I’m still interested to see how high I can go.
“Because I do think each year I’ve gotten better and had a greater command of how to play in this league, and until I feel like I’ve plateaued, I think that’s pretty exciting, because I’m still kind of trying to ascend as someone in this league trying to see how high I can go.”
Of all the Redskins injuries, Cousins pointed to the loss of Chris Thompson — which came during the third quarter of the team’s Week 11 loss to New Orleans, when the Redskins were still 4-5 — as the most crippling to Washington’s offense.
“I’ve said many times that, if we lose Chris Thompson, it’s gonna be tough,” Cousins said. “I credit our scouting department with the way they found other running backs to still make us functional, and that was impressive that they did that, but I thought losing Chris was tough.”
“Any time you lose your tackles, it makes life tough,” he went on. “And so in the Dallas game on Thursday night when we lost Morgan [Moses] for a while, and then Ty [Nsekhe], who had been practicing all week at left guard, had to go to right tackle after having been a left tackle. It was just asking a lot of him, and that certainly was hard to move the football.
“And so, then you lose Trent and you lose Ty in the last game, and now we’re down in the line with our tackles. I just think it was a combination of people, and certainly Jordan Reed has been a key factor for us, especially on third downs. We didn’t do as well this year on third down, and so you wonder if not having Jordan for much of the year affected that greatly.”
“And I don’t even focus on the defensive side of the ball,” he continued, “where I’m sure there were some people that you say, ‘If we had this or that guy healthy, then maybe it makes a big difference.’ There’s a lot of pieces. Guys all have roles and contribute in different ways, and when you lose each one of them, it affects the game in a different way.”
The overall numbers that you’ve got against the NFC East are very good. What is it about the Giants that’s given you so much trouble? — Mark in Leesburg
Cousins, as he has in the past, credits Giants defensive coordinator and interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo for creating confusion.
“I would give Coach Spagnuolo a lot of credit, their defensive coordinator,” Cousins said. “I felt like he’s always done a good job against us with his scheme, just creating confusion and bringing multiple coverages, and then disguising coverages well so that the identification of knowing where to go with the football, where to send the offensive line in protection is just not easy. It’s a battle on every snap.”
“I’ve also made it easy on them, or made it tough on me, with some of the plays I’ve made that are just poor plays and may not have a lot to do with anything but just making a poor play,” he said. “Unfortunately, yeah, a few of them have happened consistently against the Giants, but I don’t know that there’s any coincidence or correlation. It’s just happened.”
“I look forward to playing them in the future and trying to right those wrongs and improve that stat line, because it certainly has been frustrating for me,” he said. “And I think as I continue to play, I can fix that and hopefully have a much better outcome against the Giants in the future.”