Fire­works ahead for Cousins soap opera

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNY­DER

The Fourth of July is In­de­pen­dence Day, but Wash­ing­ton quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins might have to wait an ad­di­tional week this year be­fore cel­e­brat­ing his free­dom — in one form or an­other.

Ei­ther a con­tract ex­ten­sion will be reached, putting an end to count­less dis­cus­sions about his fu­ture with the team. Or he’ll play a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son un­der the fran­chise tag, vir­tu­ally guar­an­tee­ing him­self a ros­ter spot with San Fran­cisco, Los Angeles or else­where in 2018.

Is it wrong to sug­gest we should re­joice ei­ther way?

Any de­ci­sion that al­lows us to re­tire this sub­ject is worth a toast. Here here!

I have the feel­ing that mem­bers of Cousins’ camp ul­ti­mately will raise their glasses in an­tic­i­pa­tion of hit­ting the open mar­ket af­ter the up­com­ing sea­son. But Wash­ing­ton has un­til July 15 to reach a long-term deal with the quar­ter­back.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions are draw­ing in­ter­est from far out­side the DMV, par­tic­u­larly in Oak­land and Detroit.

The Raiders and Lions are deal­ing with their own quar­ter­back ques­tions, though nei­ther Derek Carr nor Matt Stafford have as much to prove. Oak­land and Detroit know what they

have un­der cen­ter, whereas Wash­ing­ton — de­spite two stel­lar sea­sons from Cousins as a starter — still seems un­cer­tain.

The only un­cer­tainty re­gard­ing Carr is whether he’ll break An­drew Luck’s record av­er­age salary of $24.6 mil­lion per year.

“The $25 mil­lion bench­mark is the next step for fran­chise quar­ter­backs,” NFL Net­work re­porter Ian Rap­pa­port said re­cently on “Good Morn­ing Foot­ball.” “It’s the next place quar­ter­backs want to go and say ‘Al­right, I achieved this; I have crossed this thresh­old.’ If there’s any quar­ter­back per­fectly slot­ted for this num­ber it’s Derek Carr. We know the Raiders have no con­cerns about him. He’s their fran­chise guy.” Maybe even lit­er­ally.

Carr could play un­der the tag if he doesn’t reach an agree­ment for the 2018 sea­son. But it’s just as likely that the Raiders con­sum­mate their love af­fair with the sec­ond-round draft pick and give him the big­gest con­tract in NFL his­tory. At least both sides are open about their de­sire for each other.

“I’ve made it very clear that I don’t want to play for any­body else,” Carr told re­porters af­ter a re­cent OTA. “They know that. They’ve told me how bad they want me. So, we’ll see.”

Carr vows to play the 2017 sea­son un­der the fi­nal year of his rookie con­tract if an ex­ten­sion isn’t reached be­fore train­ing camp. Due to make $1.15 mil­lion this sea­son, the two-time Pro Bowler would be sports’ big­gest bar­gain since Steph Curry. The Raiders will re­port to camp in late July, about two weeks af­ter the league-man­dated cut­off date for a deal be­tween Cousins and the Skins.

It stands to rea­son that Carr and the Raiders are pay­ing close at­ten­tion to Ash­burn. So are Stafford and the Lions.

Detroit is weigh­ing the mer­its of plac­ing its quar­ter­back atop the pay scale. Stafford, a free agent af­ter the up­com­ing sea­son, re­port­edly will wait to see what hap­pens with Carr — who’s likely in no rush to pre­cede Cousins.

In Ash­burn, the quar­ter­back is play­ing his own wait­ing game. He ap­pears con­tent to depart if Wash­ing­ton doesn’t show him the love (and money) he be­lieves is de­served.

At this point, he might bolt on prin­ci­ple. But he’ll never ad­mit it.

“We all don’t look much fur­ther than this sea­son,” Cousins said on “Red­skins Na­tion” last month. “... I feel good about the di­rec­tion we’re headed and we’ll see where it ends up. But bot­tom line is I’m in a good place right now and now we gotta just go win a lot of foot­ball games.”

Ne­go­ti­a­tions might be point­ing up. Ac­cord­ing to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, team owner Daniel Sny­der has be­come in­volved and Cousins’ con­tract talks have “an im­proved, en­cour­ag­ing tone. ... There’s no doubt it’s been more pos­i­tive lately,” Schefter wrote last week cit­ing anony­mous sources. “Ev­ery­thing has been much more pos­i­tive in the past sev­eral months.”

Later, while dis­cussing his re­port on Sport­sCen­ter, Schefter said a deal be­tween the two par­ties re­mains dif­fi­cult. “It’s not nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to hap­pen,” he said. “But the way it was ex­plained to me was, even if it doesn’t hap­pen now, there’s enough progress and enough en­cour­ag­ing signs that even if they don’t get it done now, that maybe they can get it done af­ter the sea­son when they would be al­lowed to ne­go­ti­ate again.”

Doubt­ful. By then, Carr and/or Stafford could have Luck-like con­tracts — or fran­chise tags — mak­ing prospects even more un­likely that Cousins would sign for any­thing less.

We won’t be free from this Cousins­ma­nia on July 4. But it could ig­nite block­buster fire­works in two mar­kets later this sum­mer be­fore flam­ing out in D.C. and leav­ing Wash­ing­ton burnt. Five weeks and count­ing ...

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