Cousins' situation creates urgency, uncertainty for Redskins
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By STEPHEN WHYNO
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Another one-year contract was exactly what Kirk Cousins wanted amid a flurry of changes to the Washington Redskins' roster and front office.
As the first NFL quarterback to play consecutive seasons on the franchise tag, Cousins bought more time to evaluate the direction of the franchise before committing long term.
In that time, the Redskins face an uncertain future as Cousins has the chance to earn a big-money, long-term contract from them or another team.
"I talk about how in the offseason the ball is in the team's court, as it is, but from Week 1 to Week 17, the ball's in my court and I've got to go play football well," Cousins said Thursday on the first day of training camp practices.
"All we have to do, all anybody with a one-year deal has to do, is focus on winning football games, and if you do that, there's going to be plenty of opportunities down the road."
Cousins will make $23.94 million on the franchise tag in 2017. According to team president Bruce Allen, Cousins' camp didn't counter Washington's offer that would've included $53 million guaranteed on a multiyear deal.
If Cousins puts up a third 4,000-yard, 20-plus-touchdown season, the 28-year-old could earn much more.
And he holds a significant amount of leverage considering a third season on the franchise tag would cost the Redskins $34.47 million or the transition tag $28.78 million that they wouldn't get compensation for if someone else offers Cousins a big contract that they don't match.
Former Redskins offensive coordinators Kyle Shanahan, now coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and Sean McVay, now coach of the Los Angeles Rams, could have particular interest.
For now, the pressure is on Cousins to prove he's worth the most guaranteed money for a QB at a convenient time with the salary cap expected to increase significantly in 2018.
"So many of my teammates - critical teammates to the success of this team - are also on one-year deals," Cousins said, as receivers Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick, offensive linemen Spencer Long and Shaun Lauvao, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and linebackers Trent Murphy, Zach Brown, Mason Foster and Will Compton are among those with contracts expiring after this season.
"Hopefully we can all have great years and give the Redskins a lot of options come the offseason."
A great year by Cousins is what the Redskins want, even if it's costly to them financially.
"He's our starter and he's going to get all the starter reps. Period," Gruden said. "Colt will take advantage of his reps - I'm sure he will.
"And Nate will get a few sprinkled in there. We're trying to develop Nate also for the future. But this is Kirk's team right now, and it's our job to get him ready for Philadelphia and really surround him and make him feel good about the people around him."
The key phrase there is "right now." Cousins said "there's never been anything but positive feelings" and has never ruled out signing long term, but until it happens there's room to speculate .
Cousins considers himself perfect for this prove-it year based on not having scholarship offers his senior year of high school and being no lock for the NFL in his college draft year at Michigan State. With two full seasons of experience as a starter, he's confident he can minimize distractions and produce.
And Gruden believes that, too.
"He's just going to continue to get better and better," Gruden said. "Not a lot he can't do, really. He's a fun guy to coach and a fun guy to see how much he's grown from year in to year out. From his first year when I had him to now, it's amazing how much better he is."
NOTES: Gruden said he doesn't believe Jordan Reed's toe injury is serious and expects the tight end to be back on the field next week. The Redskins placed Reed on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp, though Reed can be activated at any time. Given Reed's injury history, Gruden said the team is being extra cautious. "We want to make sure he's 100 percent," Gruden said. ... With Reed out and Vernon Davis dealing with a tweaked hamstring, the Redskins signed TE E.J. Bibbs and waived LB Houston Bates with a failed physical designation.
AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston in Dover, Delaware, contributed.
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Updated July 27, 2017