Cousins holds all the cards in ne­go­ti­a­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

When Robert Grif­fin III walked the halls of Red­skins Park, he was in charge. He de­cided what mu­sic they would hear in the weight room. If his par­ents needed a ride to FedEx Field, a limo would be sent to pick them up.

King RG3 wanted a boat? The owner let him use his yacht.

Kirk Cousins? He was lucky they gave him a locker.

But did RG3 have real power, or the il­lu­sion of power? RG3 had as much power as the Red­skins were will­ing to give him.

Cousins, though, now has power — real power. Dan Sny­der may buy him a yacht if Cousins wants one. The Red­skins may have to make Cousins the high­est paid player in NFL his­tory if they want him in a Red­skins uni­form for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

With the July 17 dead­line loom­ing for the team to sign Cousins to a long-term con­tract or else live with the one-year, $24 mil­lion fran­chise tag deal they have, in­dus­try ob­servers con­tinue to marvel at the lever­age Cousins has over the fran­chise.

“He is in a po­si­tion of power,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said in Jan­uary. “He holds the keys there.”

Six months later, Cousins’ po­si­tion has only im­proved. “Cousins has so much lever­age that a new Red­skins of­fi­cial com­pli­ments him pub­licly every day,” Gregg Rosenthal of nfl. com tweeted Thurs­day. “The ’Skins are forced to cam­paign for Cousins just to take their money be­cause the QB knows greater riches are around the

cor­ner if he be­comes avail­able next off­sea­son.”

The Red­skins gave Cousins all this power by re­fus­ing to com­mit to a long-term con­tract ear­lier in the process. Com­mit­ting to Cousins was re­port­edly some­thing that de­parted gen­eral man­ager Scot McCloughan wanted to do.

You re­mem­ber the McCloughan era, don’t you? When chaos reigned and the team was in a down­ward spi­ral — not like now, with the fran­chise in the hands of this new welloiled front of­fice.

The team opted not to sign Cousins when McCloughan wanted to be­cause, well, they could. They had the power then.

Now, it’s like that scene in “A Bronx Tale,” where Chazz Palminteri, play­ing mob­ster Sonny LoSpec­chio, locks a mo­tor­cy­cle gang in­side a mob bar they re­fused to leave af­ter start­ing to break it up and says, “Now youse can’t leave.” Nar­ra­tor Calogero Anello de­scribes how, in that mo­ment, the gang lost all power.

When the Red­skins tagged Cousins not once, but twice, they lost all their power — iron­i­cally, even though the fran­chise tag is a de­vice to con­trol the player.

Not this time. Cousins’ value has only gone up, as the mar­ket price for quar­ter­backs has risen dra­mat­i­cally, the lat­est be­ing Oak­land Raiders quar­ter­back Derek Carr’s record-set­ting $125 mil­lion deal. Cousins will likely re­quire more.

The ques­tion of Cousins’ abil­ity to win big games is still unan­swered — he per­formed poorly in his two most im­por­tant games in the past two sea­sons, the play­off loss to Green Bay in Jan­uary 2016 and the shame­ful, em­bar­rass­ing de­feat at the hands of the New York Giants in the fi­nal game of last sea­son, elim­i­nat­ing the team from the play­offs.

But the num­bers he com­piles, week in and week out, are among the best at the po­si­tion in the league — 54 touch­downs, 23 in­ter­cep­tions and more than 9,000 yards pass­ing the last two sea­sons, while play­ing all 32 games. There is no rea­son to be­lieve that those num­bers will di­min­ish, al­though, con­trary to lo­cal cheer­leader opin­ion, Ter­relle Pryor and Brian Quick will not be Pierre Gar­con and DeSean Jack­son.

Cousins won’t get cheaper — if the team opts to fran­chise the quar­ter­back for a third sea­son, the Red­skins will have paid him an as­ton­ish­ing $78 mil­lion in guar­an­teed salary with as­sur­ance he’ll be on the ros­ter be­yond 2018 — af­ter all that, Cousins could still leave as a free agent.

Red­skins’ icon and new­ly­crowned direc­tor of player per­son­nel Doug Wil­liams has al­ready made one mis­step — he asked that Cousins look “at the big pic­ture” in an in­ter­view on the NFL Net­work, part of the team’s lat­est pub­lic beg­ging cam­paign for Cousins to take their money.

The “big pic­ture” is an un­pre­dictable, petty owner who once treated Cousins like a limo driver and a team pres­i­dent who, since he ar­rived at the end of the 2009 sea­son, has con­trib­uted to a 45-66-1 record.

The “big pic­ture” leaves the Red­skins in the rear view mir­ror — pow­er­less.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Wash­ing­ton Red­skins fran­chised quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins for the sec­ond straight sea­son.

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