ASHBURN, Virginia -- He’ll discuss the future in Washington, using the word "we" when looking ahead. Fans wonder: Does this mean quarterback Kirk Cousins wants to stick around? Or, as he did last week, he’ll bemoan the postgame traffic and suggests moving closer to the city as a solution. And fans wonder: Would he say that if he wanted to leave?
As the Redskins prepare for their final home game on Sunday vs. Denver, it also could be the last time Cousins plays here -- at least as a member of the Redskins. Or it might not be, considering the numerous options that exist.
When Cousins says “we” when referencing the future, he knows it might be accurate. He also knows not to take it as any sort of guarantee.
“People can read between the lines whenever they want to, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything there,” Cousins said. “I look forward to getting a more settled plan up ahead. But [a long-term deal is] more kind of a luxury than anything that’s expected or normal in this league. People can infer what they want. There’s still a lot to be determined.”
When he praises the scouting staff -- as he’s done a couple times -- for the players they brought in who made the Pro Bowl, it causes some to view his thoughts as a good sign. Faith in what the franchise can build matters to him. Words are parsed; meaning gleaned. Sometimes, all he’s doing is praising, and there’s no hidden meaning.
“It’s a privilege to be in position where that is the case, if that’s the case,” Cousins said. “With privilege comes responsibility and so you have to be careful what you say and choose your words carefully.”
Redskins in control
The Redskins can control Cousins’ rights, whether with the franchise tag or transition tag. If they use the franchise option, and there’s no long-term deal worked out, then they would pay him $34.5 million. It also could lead to a trade.
If they transition him, the Redskins could match any offer (or lose him without compensation). Or he could play under a one-year deal for $28.8 million.
The Redskins could also do nothing, let Cousins test the market and see if something better exists for him.
In other words, it’s the same scenario that existed the past two seasons. That’s another reason Cousins has no idea if this is his last game at FedExField or not.
“Now that it’s been the third go around of that,” Cousins said, “you just kind of go out and play and let the chips fall where they may. I just want to make sure that in and of this season that we leave FedExField on a high note.”
'I remember thinking ... I'd like to get it done'
The first time he went through this, in 2015, might have been the one that caused more angst. Cousins was in the midst of a strong run, and the Redskins were en route to an NFC East title. They discussed internally early that season wanting to negotiate with him but did not approach Cousins’ side until December.
“Before the season, my agent said no matter what happens, we’re not doing a contract,” Cousins said. “We’ll play out 16 games and go to free agency. I remember thinking if it goes well in my favor, I’d like to get it done. He’s like, that’s not the way to do it Kirk. He was wise counsel there. We got to a week, I don’t know when it was, but it seemed like a chance to do a deal. My agent was like, no we’re playing out the rest of the season.
“Part of me was thinking maybe we should just do it. There were only a few games left. Maybe we should get it done. That’s why you hire an agent, to have that proper perspective and his counsel was wise. There were times I certainly wanted to get something done and was ready to do it. As time has evolved I’ve seen the benefits of just playing and letting the chips fall where they may.”
Those chips have led to him cashing in, having made $44 million the past two years thanks to consecutive franchise tags. No offer he’s received would have come close to that amount -- and he’s ready to earn another big contract this offseason, whether one year or multiple.
But, for now, his focus remains on the season. The Redskins are 6-8 and have 18 players on injured reserve. They’ve played 10 games against teams currently .500 or better -- nine with winning records; five are leading their division.
“We played a tougher schedule. You view everyone’s schedule the same when really they aren’t,” Cousins said. “You play some good teams so when you lose close games to good teams that makes you feel you’re not too far away. I was pleased the way the scouting staff kept bringing in talented players to replace people who got injured. They did a good job bringing in Kapri Bibbs, Byron Marshall. I thought Chris Thompson was pretty irreplaceable with what he could do. Byron and Kapri have done a nice job coming along.”
Marshall ended up getting placed on injured reserve two weeks ago. But players like that could be around in training camp, helping create more depth. That leads to more talk about, well, the future.
“We’ve built a rapport with some younger players,” Cousins said. “In the long run it will serve us well to have some of these young players who have played. If they go back to being reserves, they could be much better players as a result.”
Yes, that sounds as if Cousins anticipates being part of that future. In reality, as he said, there’s a lot to be determined.