VIENNA, Va. -- Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins made it clear his preference is to wait until March at the earliest before trying to reach any sort of a deal. That means it could likely force the Redskins to use another tag on him, or let him hit free agency.
Cousins addressed his situation in a nearly two-hour interview session on 106.7 The Fan in front of approximately 200 people packed into the Jammin Java events venue in this Washington suburb. Cousins does a paid weekly radio show on the station -- a rival of team-owned ESPN980 -- but all the proceeds from this show went to the DC Dream Center. There were 175 tickets sold.
"I see us taking our time," Cousins said.
Cousins answered questions from co-hosts Danny Rouhier and Grant Paulsen, and also took questions from fans. There wasn't a lot of new information, but Cousins did expand on some thoughts as he once again enters an offseason full of questions about his future.
He has played two consecutive years under the franchise tag. The Redskins could use a third tag at a cost of $34.5 million (they could tag him again in 2019 as well, if they wanted). Or they could use the transition tag at a cost of $28.8 million. Cousins said if the Redskins apply the latter, he would visit other teams.
There's a good chance Cousins' agent, Mike McCartney, and the Redskins will talk in the next week or two. But Cousins clearly wants time to process his situation and to assess other possible destinations. If that's indeed his preference, then the Redskins would have to decide by 4 p.m. on March 6 if they'll use one of the tags. If they don't, then he would become a free agent on March 14.
Time to settle the situation
Cousins said he'd like to get things settled.
"You can only just go year to year for so long," he said. "But that's why it's first things first. Let's get away from the season a little bit and then let's gather some information as to what the rest of the league is looking like, who's being hired, who's being fired. ... It's hard to make decisions now because there are so many dominoes to fall between now and then to influence it."
There will be a handful of other teams that possibly would be interested in Cousins if he becomes free -- or if he was made available in a trade after being tagged.
Cousins reiterated a lot of what he has said in the past: He has liked playing in Washington, for the team that drafted him in 2012. Asked if he wanted to stay, he said, "The short answer is yes." He then had to pause for several seconds as the fans in attendance applauded.
"It's been a very positive six years," he said. "Obviously we don't have Super Bowl rings to show for it, we don't have playoff wins. But it's a privilege to play here. I've always felt that, and I'd be foolish to say I don't want to be here."
Cousins repeated what he told ESPN two weeks ago -- that he was ready to sign a deal in December 2015, but his agent persuaded him not to, telling the quarterback the Redskins didn't see him in the same light as he did. In other words: Cousins could make more with a strong finish, which he then had.
"For them to see you in the light I see you, you need to do more -- they're not viewing you in that light," Cousins said his agent told him. "I didn't like to hear that. ... Mike said to put the risk on yourself and finish it out and go from there."
The Pittsburgh model
Cousins also showed awareness of other situations. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers allocated $95 million of their cap space to offense. Of that amount, approximately $65 million goes to five players, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers, Cousins pointed out, have built a top-five defense despite all of this.
"That's where you see it can be done," he said. "Does allocation of the cap have an impact? Yes. Are there several other things that impact winning far more or ahead of that? Yes. I'm well aware of that."
The counter to this is that Roethlisberger has won Super Bowls and has been a top-10 quarterback for a long time; Brown and Bell are among the best at their positions. No one is questioning whether that was money well spent.
Cousins was asked by one fan what the Redskins could do to make him want to stay in Washington. Cousins answered by mostly saying it wasn't up to him to tell the team what to do. Another fan asked what advice he'd have for the next quarterback, should he end up leaving. Cousins responded by saying to appreciate the area and how every time they'd drive home through the city and pass the monuments, his father would say, "What a great city." More applause.
One fan thanked him for "bringing a sense of competency" to the organization. Another asked if a good fan base plus tradition would weigh into any decision. Hint, hint. At one point, the crowd booed when Redskins president Bruce Allen's name was mentioned.
"I want to be associated with excellence," Cousins said. "As I've said, if I feel like winning and excellence is here, I don't have a lot of reason to look elsewhere. I'm a big part of that; the ball's in my hand. If we're not winning, I have to look at myself first and foremost. That's what I want to be a part of and to help build. If I feel that's here, there's no reason to look around."
On Tuesday, coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of Cousins' season:
"Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, we're 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and  touchdowns. He's a very, very good quarterback, without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning the division with all the injuries we had, he competed and did some good things."
To which Cousins said that he understood Gruden's assessment came after a bad game against the New York Giants.
"It may have been my worst game here in six years and there have been some bad ones," Cousins said. "I could understand how that would influence your assessment. What I gathered from the comment was that 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related; quarterback play is 7-9; 7-9 is quarterback play. I saw that and thought it's slightly more complicated than that. But his job is to evaluate. He has a right to say what he wants to say."