- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Kirk Cousins described the disappointment of being selected by the Washington Redskins in the fourth round of the 2012 draft in his book “Game Changer.”

“It was a chilling reminder of the fact that professional football is a business, and they’re not in the business of making me happy,” Cousins wrote.
There’s a chill in the air again.

Cousins is dealing with those facts of professional football again — that teams are not in the business of making him happy — as the negotiations between the Redskins and Cousins for a new contract have reportedly broken off, and the prospects of a long-term deal between the team and the starting quarterback, who is set to become a free agent, are uncertain.

That means that the business Cousins and the Redskins are now in is the business of gambling.

The Redskins have the option of putting the franchise tag on Cousins, which will allow them to keep him under contract for another year, at the price set for that position for 2016, which is expected to be around $20 million. By doing so, it keeps Cousins from becoming a free agent, buys the team some more time to negotiate a long term deal and also, in Cousins‘ case, after just one full season as a starter — albeit an outstanding one, with 29 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and 4,166 passing yards — gives the Redskins another chance to see if Cousins can sustain his success.

The gamble for the Redskins is if Cousins has another year like he did in 2016, they’re going to have to pay him even more than he may be asking now. The gamble for Cousins is that same scenario — that he either equals or surpasses his performance from this past season and his value goes up even more.

But the gamble for Washington may also be that this latest chilling reminder will be the final disappointment for Cousins and he will want out first chance he gets.

NFL players generally resent franchise tags — and Cousins would appear to have a lot of resentments over his time in Washington, from the day he was drafted to the privileges granted the quarterback he played behind for three years, Griffin, that Cousins and others knew was undeserved. And, whatever the Redskins may have offered Cousins during their contracts talks before they broke down may have created more resentments.

After all, Cousins may seem like a Boy Scout, but he has an ego, and that ego suffered some bruises since he has been with the Redskins.

In his book, Cousins acknowledged he has an ego, and it took a hit the day he was drafted by Washington.

“As I reflect now on the draft and think about what I lost by going in the fourth round instead of the second, it’s really only two things: money and ego,” Cousins wrote. “I’ve had to ask myself the question, ‘Is money more important to me than it should be?’”

Here he is, four years later, most likely asking himself the same question.

“Bottom line, like anybody else in any line of work, in any job you have, you want to be where you’re wanted, and I’m no different,” Cousins told 106.7 The Fan in December. “So, that’s the bottom line. I want to be where I’m wanted, and we’ll find out where I’m wanted in a few months.”

Would the Redskins actually dare to let Cousins find out where he is wanted, and let him become a free agent? Not unless general manager Scot McCloughan has something in mind that everyone is unaware of — that there is a quarterback out there, either on an NFL roster or in the upcoming draft, that he believes is worth more of a gamble.

That would seem unlikely. The franchise tag for Cousins seems inevitable. He will get paid well for that designation, but it will also be a reminder of the disappointment of the 2012 draft.

“I was completely at the mercy of whichever team picked me,” Cousins wrote. “Whether it was a good situation for me or not, I would be going to a team that selected me and not be able to change it.”

The ability to change it may wind up being what Cousins wants the most.

⦁ Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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