Next offseason, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins can potentially hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his NFL career. Since playing out his four-year rookie contract, Washington has twice used the franchise tag on him. They could use it a third time, or they could elect to use the less expensive transition tag.
We’ve heard plenty from current and former NFL executives, but what do Washington fans think? They have had to deal with this drama for years now, and this offseason will only be the latest inflection point. I took a few minutes to chat 49ers-Washington with Hogs Haven writer Bill-in-Bangkok, and naturally one of my questions was about Cousins. I asked him what will happen with Cousins this offseason. He had this to say.
Funny, that’s really the only question that matters to Washington fans as well.
At Hogs Haven, writers and commenters have used up billions of bytes since 2015 discussing what has happened, what is happening, what might happen, what will happen, and what should have happened with Kirk Cousins. We’re all weary of the discussion. If it were any team other than the 49ers asking the question, I might refuse to even offer a response, but I realize that you guys feel you have a vested interest.
Personally, I figure that there are only three to five people in the world that really have much idea about what Kirk’s future is in 2018 and beyond: Kirk, his agent, his wife Julie, and maybe his parents.
Cousins made some statements during training camp about the process he went through this past off-season in deciding what to do with his contract. He indicated that it was a difficult personal decision, and one that ultimately was decided through prayerful contemplation; in short, he felt that God wanted him to play on a one-year franchise tag in DC this season.
I suspect that the decision about 2018 has not yet been made, and that it will largely come down to Kirk’s interpretation of God’s will, which may not yet be apparent to Kirk & Julie.
I will say that I don’t believe that money will be the deciding factor for Kirk.
While I don’t know where Kirk will be in 2018 and beyond, I do know that the majority of Washington fans would like him to remain in burgundy and gold, though that’s often qualified with the words, “at the right price”.
We haven’t had a truly talented quarterback behind center consistently since Joe Theismann’s career was ended by Lawrence Taylor in 1985. That’s a long time in the desert.
Some fans are so thirsty for talent and consistency that they feel that making Kirk the highest paid quarterback in the league would be fine; especially after the RG3 experience, all we want is stability. Others say that Kirk is a good-not-great quarterback, and that there needs to be a ceiling on how much the franchise is willing to pay him.
Ultimately, what the fans want isn’t going to matter; and the signals from Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen, Doug Williams and the rest of the front office have been mixed and confusing.
Despite the mixed signals, there are factors that I believe could help Washington fans get their wish.
1. I think that Jay Gruden wants Kirk Cousins to be his quarterback. With each passing season, Jay’s influence in the organization seems to have grown. If he can get the team to the playoffs, and hopefully get a victory or three in the postseason, then Jay will likely be in a position to get what he wants in 2018.
2. Kirk plays well in Jay Gruden’s system, and has four years invested in it. Gruden has a contract that should keep him here for a while, and the team is having success, which should likely lead to long-term stability. Kirk will be weighing a decision to play somewhere else where he may need to start from scratch. Obviously, if that “somewhere else” is San Francisco, then this factor is mitigated by his familiarity with Kyle Shanahan. However, Kirk has spent the past four years learning to play very differently from the way Kyle asks his quarterbacks to play, so there would still be a certain amount of re-learning or starting over involved.
3. Every player has a ‘window of opportunity’ to win one or more Super Bowls. Kirk is probably just stepping into his window, and the next contract will probably cover most of the time period available for him to try to make his mark, and get a ring or two.
Very few teams in search of a starting quarterback are playoff-ready, much less Super Bowl ready. Since we’re talking about the 49ers versus Washington in the scope of this question, then I’ll say that the Niners probably face the tougher challenge in terms of presenting Kirk with a contending team. There are signs, through four games, that the 2017 version of Washington is different – physically and mentally tougher than any Washington team has been in the past 20 years. Washington may actually be just a player or two away from being legitimate contenders. The next 12 weeks will show whether this Washington team really is a contender, or simply a pretender.
4. Kirk is a family man with a new baby. He’s been in the DC area for six years now. Washington drafted him. Kirk is a guy who thrives on routine. Stability matters to him, and I think that the opportunity to not disrupt his life by changing teams and moving to a new city may be a much bigger factor with him than it would be with most other professional athletes.
Kirk has talked in the past about the fact that the great quarterbacks – and Kirk is always striving to join that club – the great quarterbacks mostly spend their entire careers with one team. I don’t think you can overlook these kinds of factors with Kirk.
5. Washington has paid Kirk nearly $44m in two years. While his biggest earning years are ahead of him, his family is already financially secure for the rest of his life. Kirk doesn’t need to sell his services to the highest bidder; he can afford to play in the place that “feels right” to him.
Kirk has continually, for over two years, said that playing someplace where he feels wanted is a motivating factor for him. I don’t know whether that works for or against Washington, but it is likely to end up being the factor, behind God’s will, that is second-most important to Kirk’s decision making.