The Redskins were not shy about marketing Kirk Cousins as the quarterback of the future on Sunday. You Like That! towels were passed out to fans and there were plenty of No. 8 jerseys in stock around the stadium during Washington's wild-card game against the Packers.
But after the 35-18 loss to Green Bay, reality hit. While both sides would probably like to strike a deal to keep Cousins, his contract is expiring. Save for an exclusive negotiating period between now and the second week of March, Cousins is free to hit the market and truly gauge his value.
That seemed to be the theme on Sunday after the game. Cousins was gracious but cautious.
"I think I want to be where I am wanted," he said. "You want to be with people who believe in you and we are going to find out, because we haven't discussed it yet, how much I am wanted and where that'll go. But I'm sure you know it's a business and the team is going to operate with that mindset and this is my first time going through that process in the NFL. It's new to me, I don't know a whole lot about it, so we'll see how it goes."
Washington will essentially have the tough task of deciding whether or not Cousins is the quarterback of the future or a quarterback like Nick Foles. Cousins has a decent sample size, but his growth down the stretch will be difficult for coach Jay Gruden and his offensive staff to parse out.
The prevailing thought will be that it's almost impossible to find a quarterback in the draft capable of leading the league in both touchdowns and completion percentage over half a season like Cousins did over eight games in 2015. And given the extreme lack of consistent quarterback talent in this league, it's probably worth the price to find out.
Negotiations will also be interesting because, after the Redskins release Robert Griffin III, they really won't have much of a backup plan at all. Cousins can probably play a little bit of hardball if he's interested.
If nothing else, his comments seem to at least set up the potential for a bit of a tug-of-war. Will he make it to free agency?