- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2016

ASHBURN — The Washington Redskins will have plenty of issues to address in the offseason, perhaps none more greater than securing a deal with pending free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins.

It is not so much a question of if the Redskins will sign the fourth-year quarterback whose breakout season propelled the team to the playoffs, but more a matter of when and how much. Will they give him the franchise tag or reach an agreement on a long-term deal?

“I don’t know, I think that’s a question for ‘coach’ Scot McCloughan. I think we should ask him that and Bruce [Allen],” coach Jay Gruden said. “Right now, we’re just finishing the season. The coaches right now we’re going to evaluate our players, do some reports, talk about them tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and then take a little vacation, the coaches will. We’ll go through that process soon.”

Gruden sidestepped the question about Cousins’ next contract, but made it clear that the Redskins have every intention of building around their newfound starter. When Gruden declared the team belong to Cousins when anointing him the starter in August, there were a lot of unknowns. Now that Cousins has had the opportunity for a full season at the helm, would he prove to any doubters that he was capable of helping this team move forward?

There were plenty of growing pains, but in the end, Cousins provided the answer Gruden and the Redskins were looking for.

“I think it was a process we had to see, too,” Gruden said. “We had a lot of confidence that he could do it based on his ability out in practice. You just never know how that translates into games and situational football and pressure. I think he handled a lot of key situations well, some two-minute drives, obviously some third-down conversions he was very good at, the red zone he was very good at. Those are key situations in the game of football, and to watch him get better throughout the course of the season, stay humble, continue to work and prepare was fun to be a part of. Moving forward, we’re excited about the thought of him being our quarterback.”

As Gruden now prepares for his third season as the Redskins’ coach, he mentioned how much more helpful it is to have stability at the position, presuming Cousins returns. The challenge now will be continuing to upgrade the team, but that gets somewhat easier considering a building block is in place with Cousins.

“Every day is a new entity and he’s just got to study the game and we’ll continue to build our game plan and our offense around his skill set, which is going to be good,” Gruden said. “We’ll just go from there, starting from ground zero again. We’ll have new rookies, we’ll have some new free agents in town, so we’re going to have to start slow, but we’ll be able to build fast with a quarterback that has been here.”

Cousins finished the regular season with a 69.8 completion percentage, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a franchise-record 4,166 passing yards. He was 29-for-46 for 329 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

• Anthony Gulizia can be reached at agulizia@washingtontimes.com.

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