Kirk Cousins is in control of his own destiny

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Updated: July 22, 2016
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The Washington Redskins took the safe route by placing the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins — but they could ultimately find themselves in a lose-lose situation. Cousins signed a $19.95 million tender, making him just the second quarterback in NFL history to play under the tag. Drew Brees was the other quarterback to do so, in 2005, as the San Diego Chargers drafted Philip Rivers in 2004 to be his eventual replacement.

But if this were a game of spades, Cousins would have a handful of books (like, around eight and a possible). He has the opportunity to replicate his 2015 success by following it up with another stellar season and improving his stock. He finished last year throwing 29 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions, while leading the Redskins to their second NFC East title since 1999. In fact, Washington has won the division just four times since 1988.

Over the Redskins’ last 10 games, Cousins threw 23 touchdowns and just three picks. He shocked the world, did what no one expected, and became exactly the player head coach Jay Gruden envisioned him to be.

Robert Griffin III is gone and it’s now Cousins’ job heading into the upcoming season. He doesn’t have to look over his shoulder during practices, or after throwing an interception during a game. He doesn’t have to worry about the fans rooting for another quarterback to play ahead of him — as they did at times while Griffin was still on the roster. After leading the NFL in completion percentage last year, Cousins has solidified his spot as being the Redskins’ quarterback — at least for 2016.

Due to a rising salary cap next year, if he can put together another solid season, Cousins could become the highest paid quarterback in NFL history — yes, above Indianapolis ColtsAndrew Luck, who just signed a six-year, $140 million deal with $87 million guaranteed.

The quarterback market rose once Brock Osweiler signed a four-year, $72 million deal with Houston, including $37 million fully guaranteed — after starting seven games last season, and throwing only 10 touchdown passes to six interceptions. But the Redskins weren’t going to be prisoners of the moment, and impulsively sign Cousins to a lucrative deal.

“I would love to do a long-term deal with Kirk,” Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said during the offseason. “But I’m not going to ruin the organization financially to do it.

“But he’s our leader on offense, he’s our quarterback,” McCloughan said. “We won the NFC East last year. That’s pretty cool. That’s what we need, we need those types of guys. But you can’t go crazy because it’s about 53 players, not one. That’s what we keep preaching.”

Basically, the Redskins aren’t sold that Cousins is their franchise quarterback — at least not quite yet. He has to prove that he can consistently get the job done. But if he does, the Redskins will find themselves in a precarious position heading into next offseason.

Let’s say Cousins is a Pro Bowler, and leads the Redskins to a second straight playoff appearance. He would then demand more money when free agency approaches in 2017, giving Washington a tough decision to make. And if they decided to place the tag on him, again, it would be worth $24 million — which would equate to roughly $44 million over two years for Cousins. Not bad.

He’s confident that he can duplicate his success, but also understands the business side of the process.

“I’ll let my play do the talking,” Cousins said. “Nothing in this league is promised to you. Whether it’s a one-year deal or a 10-year deal, I have to prove myself every game and every year. I feel very established in my role and excited to take advantage of the opportunity, which is a phenomenal opportunity.”

Kirk is in total control of his future. If he produces, he will be in a great spot next year. If not, Washington will be hesitant to sign him, and may find itself looking for a starting quarterback — for the umpteenth time.

Josiah Turner

Josiah Turner

Josiah is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sideline Sports Report. He is a writer for ESPN, and has written for Rant Sports and FanSided covering the Washington Redskins. He's also covered high school basketball for Virginia Preps (Rivals.com). Josiah is from Chesapeake, VA and a college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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