I listened to the Kirk Cousins interview. A few thoughts/takeaways.
- He wants free agency. More than anything else, he made it very clear that he wants to go through the “recruiting process”…aka, free agency. Over and over again he said he wants to go through the process of seeing what’s out there. He wants to have a say-so in where he works, lives, and for whom he works.
- No more Franchise Tags please. He doesn’t want to be franchise-tagged again because as mentioned above, he wants to see/visit other places and have a voice in where he works/lives, etc. He’s ready to quote, “get settled”. Interestingly however, he also said that if the team were to use a final Franchise Tag, he would likely sign it quickly like he did last two years. That sounded much more like threat than hope.
- Door was never closed on Washington. Maybe I’m nuts but I heard him through words and tone leave a small crack in the door for a return to Washington. Now, I wouldn’t bet on it, in part because it’s clearly in his best interest to leave every door open publicly which he did, but there were a few things he said that sounded more genuine than calculated. First, he said Dan Snyder has been great to him. It sounded truthful. Who knew. Secondly, he believes the team truly wants him. He spoke about the offer made last May (more on that below) and said it was an offer that made him believe they had finally decided he was their guy. Thirdly, he talked about his respect and appreciation for the fan base but also understands how much bigger it would be for him if the team actually won something of note. He mentioned that his marketing agency has explained the future upside value of winning in this city as compared to other places. Again, I wouldn’t wager a penny on him being here next year or beyond. I still think his preference has been and still is to leave this situation. But for someone like me who wants him back, the interview offered a scant glimmer of hope.
- The May 2017 offer was a sign to him that the team wanted him. The Redskins offer of $53M in true guaranteed money was received by Cousins and his agent as a sincere “we want you” offer by the Skins. This was the first time he became convinced the team truly wanted him. Cousins said that the offer in his agent’s opinion was a true negotiation-starter but they decided not to counter it because at that point, it was about Kirk figuring out over the next year if this was the place he wanted to be long-term. We’ll never know for sure how Kirk and his agent would have responded to a better opening offer (something much closer to the Carr and Stafford deals). We’ll also never know for sure what the Skins would have done had Cousins countered something close to the Carr and Stafford deals. Those are interesting things to consider because the team’s opening offer was nearly $40 million short of the guarantee Stafford got and Stafford wasn’t working off the leverage of a 2nd franchise tag. The team may have choked on the counter and perhaps Cousins and his agent knew it based on conversations they had about where the money would need to be. Cousins acknowledged that while there was no counter, there was conversation. Additionally, we don’t know for sure if Cousins would have reacted differently if the offer had come much sooner as in right when the season ended instead of five months after the 2016 season finale. An immediate/aggressive team offer after a devastating season-ending loss to the Giants on January 2nd, 2017 may have carried more weight and been more convincing.
- Reaction to Gruden’s nails-on-chalkboard season-ending comments. Kirk didn’t love Jay Gruden’s comments on Monday about his quarterback’s season. He cited Gruden’s frustration over a bad loss to the Giants as a reason for Gruden’s tone but also implied that he was confused that Gruden tied the team’s 7-9 final record directly to Cousins’ performance. As he said, there was a lot more that went into the 7-9 record than just his performance, good or bad. Gruden’s comments came off publicly as luke-warm/non-supportive and it sounded like the quarterback took them the same way.
- McCloughan made the first move in late ’15. The interview confirmed that Scot McCloughan was behind the team’s initial contract offer in late 2015. Cousins revealed that it happened before the Bears game in December of ’15. Cousins implied that McCloughan was smart and wanted to do it before the final few games of ’15 because he thought it was the right time to get a team-friendly deal. This is where the team’s initial offer was discussed. My understanding is that the initial offer/discussion in December of 2015 was for $12.5M per year. Cousins and his agent passed on the offer thinking that if he played well over the final few games and they were able to win the division the price would go much higher. Cousins played great down the stretch, the Skins won the division, and the price went up. According to reports at the time, when the season ended, the Redskins upped their offer to $16M per year/$24M guaranteed. This was an offer that was far short of Cousins’ market value especially after Brock Osweiler signed a deal for $18M per/$37M gtd in Houston. The reporting at the time was that Cousins would have signed a long-term deal at $19M per yr/$44M guaranteed. The Skins never came off the $16Mper/$24M gtd and hence, the first franchise tag was used. This was the moment the team must look back on and cringe. If they had ponied up and accepted the Cousins counter in early 2016, Cousins would currently be the 15th highest-paid QB in the league at $19M per year with still 3 years remaining on the contract. Not budging off the $16M/$24M led to the first tag and from the moment that first tag got slapped on Cousins, the ability to get a long-term deal was going to be more difficult, especially if he played well….and he did.
- Cousins is a PR pro but genuine. Not a surprise to a Kirk-fan like me but I thought he came off as smart, classy, and likeable.