Kirk Cousins is officially a free agent. As expected, the Washington Redskins opted not to place a franchise tag on the quarterback for the third straight year.
The Redskins decided to walk away from it’s tumultuous union with Cousins when it traded cornerback Kendall Fuller and a 2018 third-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith. There was some chatter, Washington could still use the tag on Cousins in an effort to trade him to recoup some compensation. That will not be, however, as the Redskins let Tuesday’s deadline on designating the franchise tag come and go.
Now with Cousins gone from the burgundy and gold, his departure opens the avenue for some additional insight within how both sides got to this point. Teams such as the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, and Denver Broncos are prepared to court arguably the most coveted player in free agency history. Cousins’ former Redskins teammate, Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall says Redskins felt Cousins was not committed to the franchise.
“We kind of felt like the commitment wasn’t there from Kirk,” Hall said while appearing on Sportscenter on Tuesday, per the Washington Post. “We obviously wanted Kirk. We franchised him because we wanted him there. It was up to ownership and the front office to kind of work those numbers out. They couldn’t get the numbers worked out so he signed franchise tags those two football seasons. Everybody in that locker room was behind Kirk, we wanted him there, but we wanted to feel like he wanted to be there as well. Having played 14 years, I understand, ‘Let’s go get the money.’ But at some point it has to be mutual interest from both parties to want to get better collectively as a team. Paying Kirk probably the $30 million he’s going to get, we couldn’t do that and get better as a football team.”
The Redskins had their opportunities to sign Cousins. After breaking the franchise record for passing yards, the Redskins rejected Cousins’ desire for a three-year deal that would have reportedly paid him $19 million per year. Washington essentially told Cousins they needed to see more in him besides one breakout season in 2015. He went on to have two more straight seasons with 4,000 yards passing, breaking his franchise record in 2016. From then on, a long-term deal was a long shot. Cousins had outplayed the range Washington was willing to pay.
The Redskins opted to place franchise tags on Cousins back-to-back seasons, paying him roughly $44 million in total over the two seasons. Hall contended Cousins still had the Redskins locker room behind him. And while they understood Cousins was not committed to Washington, Hall says he understood the early mishaps of the Redskins towards Cousins played a huge factor in his eventual departure. Hall referenced the rocky relationship between the QB and the team’s brass going back to him overtaking Robert Griffin III for the starting position.
“I think Kirk Cousins realized he was better than [Robert Griffin III] before the organization did,” Hall said. “I think we took a little too much in realizing how good he was. Then when it was time to really pay him, we kind of said, ‘Hey, we want to see a little bit more.’ And we did that, and then his numbers kind of went up. Then we said, ‘Well, we still want to keep [our long-term offer] in this ballpark.’ And he wanted a little more, so we said, ‘All right, we’ll franchise you again.’ Finally, we just started getting a feeling as though, oh, maybe he really doesn’t want to be here. He wanted to kind of pick his own destination, I felt like.”
Now the Kirk Cousins era is over in Washington. The Redskins have Smith and Cousins will have an opportunity to be pursued like no other player in league history. He could be a missing piece for a team on the cusp of great things, much like the Vikings. Hall acknowledged Cousins is that good.
“If you’re just a quarterback away, you pay Kirk Cousins whatever he wants to get, because he will win for you,” Hall said.