- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2018

With teams officially able to court him, Kirk Cousins said goodbye Monday to the Washington Redskins.

Cousins released a letter on his website thanking the team and Redskins fans for his six seasons spent in the District. Cousins, 29, will be moving on after the Redskins traded for quarterback Alex Smith in January.

The negotiating period for free agents opened noon Monday, meaning teams like the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets can start negotiating with Cousins’ agent, Mike McCartney.

“Knowing I will not be putting on a Redskins jersey next season, it’s hard to look back at all that’s taken place and not become emotional,” Cousins said. “I will forever be grateful to Mike Shanahan for taking a chance on me in the 2012 draft. … For the first time in 11 years I will participate in choosing where I play. Having said this, I would not trade the past decade for anything.”

Reports persist that teams are preparing to offer Cousins significant guarantees for his next contract. The NFL Network reported at least two teams are prepared to offer a three-year, fully guaranteed contract “if that’s what it takes.”

Cousins coming away with a fully guaranteed contract would be historic. NFL players are usually never given fully guaranteed long-term contracts because teams want to have wiggle room.

But Cousins’ situation differs from most because quarterbacks in their prime rarely hit the market. Cousins became a free agent after playing the last two years on the franchise tag, netting a total of nearly $44 million.

“People not fully understanding what Cousins has done & the contract he will get,” tweeted former NFL executive Joe Banner. “Two years ago he asked for 5 yrs 19M, that’s 95 for 5. Skins didn’t think he was worth that. Last two years plus next three will be at least $134,000,000. That’s a 39M increase based on a strategy.”

The Vikings, Jets, Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals are believed to be the four expected finalists for Cousins. Of that group, the Vikings and the Jets reportedly lead the pack.

Interestingly enough, Cousins’ letter also included the words “Jets” and “Vikings” in the tags included on the post. Tags are used by websites to help drive traffic and keep track of topics. The tags were later removed.

Free agency opens Wednesday, but Cousins is now able to agree to terms. If Cousins wants to make a visit to a team’s facilities, he can’t do so until Wednesday.

Cousins spent the last three seasons as the Redskins‘ starting quarterback, throwing for more than 4,000 yards each year — though the team made the playoffs only once.

After this past season, Cousins and coach Jay Gruden disagreed over how much the Redskins‘ 7-9 record in 2017 was a reflection of the quarterback’s play.

Cousins thanked Gruden and the Redskins‘ brass in his letter.

“There is no way I would be where I am today without the leadership of the Redskins organization,” Cousins said. “Coach Gruden, Bruce Allen, Dan Snyder. Thank you all for the opportunity you gave me. When Cooper someday asks: ‘Hey Dad, what was it like playing for the Redskins?’ I’ll proudly tell him it was a dream come true.”

Cousins also singled out teammates like Colt McCoy and Ryan Kerrigan. 

The Redskins, meanwhile, went about Monday taking care of business with some of their own free agents. They re-signed kicker Dustin Hopkins and offered a second-round tender to tackle Ty Nsekhe.

Hopkins was set to be an unrestricted free agent and will return for his fourth season with the Redskins. He missed eight games last year with a right hip injury but returned for the final three.

Nsekhe is a key backup to left tackle Trent Williams and the offensive line. Nsekhe, 32, started five of the last six games for the Redskins. If he signs his tender, he will make $2.9 million in 2018.

Nsekhe is free to solicit other offers, but a team would have to give up a second round to the Redskins to land him, making a deal unlikely. The Redskins would also have the right to match.


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