- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ASHBURN — Sometimes, Redskins news swirls around the Twittersphere before coach Jay Gruden first hears about it.

Wednesday, following Washington’s final organized team activity session open to the media, Gruden was asked about an ESPN report claiming that the Redskins contract negotiations with quarterback Kirk Cousins have warmed in tone recently, and Gruden said he’d just learned of it.

“I was just alerted to the report,” Gruden said. “I don’t have a reaction. I’m not in the negotiations, unfortunately. No, I mean, I’m going to let everybody handle that. I think [Redskins President] Bruce Allen and [chief contract negotiator] Eric Schaffer will do a fine job and obviously Kirk’s agent will do his work. Hopefully something gets done.”

In the report, ESPN’s Adam Schefter quoted an anonymous source who claimed that talks have “been much more positive in the past several months,” as Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has made various overtures to show Cousins that the team badly wants to keep him. Allen and Mike McCartney, Cousins‘ agent, met face-to-face for the first time in the last two years at last month’s owners’ meetings in Chicago, Schefter reported.

This does not mean that a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline is likely, and Schefter made it clear that positivity could also be related to the Redskins’ prospects of re-signing Cousins in 2018, should he play on the franchise tag in 2017. The likelihood is that he does simply because of math.

“You know, I have a lot of respect for Kirk and what he’s done and what he’s accomplished in a short period of time. I’m very happy that he’s our quarterback. He’s proved great things,” Gruden said.

Cousins is set to earn nearly $24 million guaranteed this season, then test the market where he could command a record-setting salary. The Redskins could also tag him again for either $28 million on the transition tag or nearly $34 million with another franchise tag. No matter how you slice it, unless Cousins is worried about injury or reduced performance, he maximizes his income and leverage by waiting a year.

Cousins‘ contract situation, at least this time around, has not been defined by ill will. Any lack of momentum has more to do with the fact that the team put itself in a difficult spot by not reaching a long-term extension last season, and Cousins has few incentives to act now. Cousins himself described the talks as “positive” two weeks ago, and is at Redskins Park going about business as usual.

“I don’t know, man, it’s funny to come out here and see the guy work because he is putting forth his best effort,” cornerback Josh Norman said. “He is making key component throws, tough situations, in between guys and defenders.”

Gruden’s line since Cousins signed his franchise tag in April has been that he knows the 28-year-old will be on the team this year, and he’s not worrying about what’s beyond that. Gruden reiterated as much Wednesday.

“We’ve got him here for another year, I’m going to coach the heck out of him,” Gruden said. “I love coaching him, I think he likes playing here in this system, for this football team and this franchise. We’ll see what happens.”

What happens is more a matter of numbers than good feelings but, deal or no deal, the Redskins’ work environment hasn’t deteriorated as a result of the negotiations.

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