- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ASHBURN — Kirk Cousins is becoming well-practiced at the contract-negotiation process. For the second year running, he has begun the team’s offseason program under the franchise tag, waiting to see if a long-term deal gets done.

“I talk about as a quarterback getting experience and getting reps. I feel like when it comes to the contract, I have gotten reps now,” Cousins said Wednesday. “I am getting used to answering questions and going through this now the second time through, so I am not a rookie anymore when it comes to this stuff.”

Cousins spoke after Redskins OTAs, the first session open to the media this year. If he’s angry over the way negotiations are going he did not show it, affably deflecting questions regarding why, if the Redskins want to keep him as badly as they say they do, they haven’t made an offer he’s been willing to accept.

Cousins’ answer, essentially, was that the Redskins haven’t had to — yet. The moment of truth will be the July 15 deadline for a long-term deal and, likely, not a moment before.

“As one person told me,” Cousins said, “Deadlines do deals. That’s just kind of a rule in negotiating, so why would something happen way before a deadline? It just doesn’t make sense. I’m not in a hurry, they’re not in a hurry, so we’ll just see how things go. I’m being patient.”

Both sides feel that it is unlikely anything will happen long before the deadline. On Monday, Redskins President Bruce Allen said that his camp — which also includes chief contract negotiator Eric Schaffer — is talking with Cousins and his agent, Mike McCartney, on a consistent basis but is in no rush.

“There’s been constant dialogue, I don’t want to say it’s every day,” Allen said Monday. “I do believe that July 15th, the league deadline, really, is going to be the driving point to it, but it’s ongoing.”

If Cousins does not sign a deal before the deadline, he will play under the $24 million franchise tag in 2017. The Redskins would have the option of using the transition tag or franchise tag in 2018, though both have downsides.The Redskins would risk losing Cousins and getting nothing in return under the transition tag if another team made Cousins an offer the Redskins were unwilling to match. Using the franchise tag for a third-straight year would cost $34.5 fully guaranteed, an unreasonable amount of the team’s salary cap space.

Of note: the O in OTAs stands for optional. Cousins chose to be on hand Wednesday, he did not have to be. No one ever expected the quarterback entering his third year as a starter to deny himself coveted practice reps, but players do often skip optional workouts when they’re miffed about a contract situation. The Redskins are not going through that drama with Cousins, and Allen said Monday that he’s optimistic a deal will get done.

Playing under the franchise tag hasn’t hurt Cousins’ bank account. After this season, he will have made nearly $44 million over the past two years combined.

“Well, I think even Kirk said it. There’s a lot of players in the league on one-year deals so it’s the nature of it,” Allen said. “We’d like to get a long-term deal, and I think he should want to get a long-term deal.”

Still, high-performance quarterbacks in their prime aren’t subject to the same kinds of short-term, low-guarantee deals that most NFL players are, and the Redskins are lucky that Cousins has never so much as hinted at a holdout. Playing under a one-year deal hasn’t hampered his production, either.

Cousins described talks with the Redskins as “positive” but indicated no preference for a long-term deal or otherwise. He’s just waiting and seeing.

“It is just a matter of trying to move forward and we will see what happens come July 15,” Cousins said. “It will be a telling date as it was last summer.”

Telling it will be.

July 15 may tell the world that the Redskins think Cousins’ 9,083 yards and a 54-to-23 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the past two seasons illustrates who the quarterback is and will be going forward, making him worth a long-term commitment at top dollar. It may tell the world that, even at a fair price, Cousins isn’t interested in sticking around. It may tell that the Redskins are willing to play with the fire of a potential third-straight tag in 2018 to avoid committing now.

Come July 15, things will be clearer. Until then, it’s wait and see.

• Nora Princiotti can be reached at nprinciotti@washingtontimes.com.

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