- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS — Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Thursday it was “time” for his team to move on from quarterback Kirk Cousins — and have continuity at the position.

In January, the Redskins shipped a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller to the Kansas City Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith. The Redskins then gave Smith a four-year, $94 million extension with $71 million guaranteed for injury only, locking Smith in Washington for the foreseeable future.

The decision to trade for Smith, which can’t become official until March 14, meant letting Cousins walk in free agency.

“We’ve played this (franchise) tag game for a couple years now, it seems like, and I think it’s time to get some stability at our position, Gruden said. “It’s the most important position in sports, and that’s quarterback. It’s very important for us to move forward and let Kirk move on if Washington is not a place he wanted to be.”

Gruden’s comments were his first since the Smith trade came to fruition. In January, Gruden told The Team 980 that he didn’t want to see another one-year for Cousins. Cousins echoed similar remarks — saying he would like “to get settled” on his next contract.

But Gruden didn’t blame Cousins for not reaching a long-term deal with the Redskins, calling the decision a “mutual deal.”

“At the end of the day, it’s a business deal and he wants to do what’s best for his family,” Gruden said. “We’re trying to do what’s best for organization and our football team. It just didn’t work out. The reasons are, I’m sure there are a handful on his side and a handful on our side.

“But at the end of the day, it’s time to move on. And we will.”

The Redskins moved onto Smith, who Gruden can’t publicly comment on until the trade becomes official.

Smith is coming off a career-year in which he threw for 4,042 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. He led the Chiefs to winning the AFC West, but lost to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Wildcard.

Smith, 33, figures to transition smoothly into Gruden’s offense. The Redskins coach likes to be creative in the passing game, and Smith thrived under a similar mindset with Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Reid transformed his offense this season to incorporate college concepts and highlight playmakers like Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt.

In an indirect way, Gruden praised Smith’s experience as a veteran.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a guy in here who’s consistently made sound decisions and knows those situations year in and year out for a very long time,” Gruden said, grinning.

As for Cousins, he’ll have his list of options for his next team.

Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said Wednesday he doesn’t think the team will give Cousins a third straight franchise tag, which would have been worth one-year, $34.5 million.

The Redskins could theoretically tag Cousins with the intention of trading him for compensation, but that carried a series of risks. If they weren’t able to trade him right away, Washington’s salary cap room would have been tied up. Cousins would have also likely filed a grievance over the move, setting up a legal battle.

Cousins, 29, will likely become the highest-paid player in NFL history this offseason. Quarterbacks in their prime don’t hit the market, and Cousins is a rare exception. Cousins has also been productive on the field, passing for more than 4,000 yards in the three straight seasons since being named the full-time starter in 2015.

The Redskins and Cousins could never agree to a long-term extension, and the Redskins used the franchise tag in the last two years to keep him. Each year, Cousins‘ contract was the main focal point of the Redskins’ offseason.

Cousins, taken in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, spent six seasons with the Redskins.

Gruden, meanwhile, didn’t seem overly sentimental about moving on.

“It’s pro football — nothing is etched in stone anyway,” Gruden said. “… But to see Kirk go somewhere else, I’m sure it’ll be a great opportunity for him. I’m happy for him and his family that he’s going to get an opportunity that he feels like he deserves. I’ll root for him, except when he plays the Redskins.”

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