The smart play -- more accurately, the only one -- by the Washington Redskins was to keep Kirk Cousins off the market, using the franchise tag to keep the quarterback around. And the smart play by Cousins is to sign it quickly.
He’ll do so Thursday morning, which will allow both sides to move forward. The lone concern is whether they can agree on a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline. But at least there’s no more drama surrounding this situation, at least about if he’ll stay in Washington (signing it also keeps the leverage on Cousins' side; he's now guaranteed of a strong payday so unless the Redskins make a stronger offer he's content playing under the tag).
Still, by signing the tag, Cousins will take himself off the market. Another team could have signed him and then given up two No. 1 picks, but his side knew that wasn’t going to happen -- and the Redskins knew there was no prayer of it occurring, either. So why waste time?
If Cousins waited until Monday, it would allow his agent time to talk with other teams, possibly getting a feel for who might be interested next offseason if things reach that point.
But there’s no reason to do that; this is where Cousins wants to play -- this season and in the future. That much has been clear in any conversation I’ve ever had with him or his representatives. It’s also clear the Redskins want him long-term, and that may eventually help close what appears to be a $4 million-per-year gap in negotiations.
Another point, though, is that this allows Cousins to go through offseason workouts and to be a leader. Now that it’s his team, some expect him to take a stronger role in that regard. There’s also the fact that this is the first offseason he’ll enter as the starter.
“He did it [last season] without the luxury of being the No. 1 guy ever in this offense,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Training camp, OTAs -- he’s always been second fiddle and hadn’t gotten the reps. When we announced him as the first-team quarterback after the third preseason game was really the first time we really catered the offense to him, and he took it and ran with it.
“He had his ups and downs, obviously, as most quarterbacks do. But you could see him progress and get better and better every week, and that’s what you look for in any player. And we feel like with the whole offseason catered to him -- OTAs, training camp, all that stuff -- he’s got a big upside.”
Now Cousins has got a big cap number and even bigger expectations. But now that the franchise tag issue is out of the way, he can move on to doing what he’d prefer: preparing for next season.