The two sides reached this point before spring became summer, despite the tone of contract talks picking up in recent months, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported, according to a person informed of negotiations. Washington's most recent offer in May failed to secure the quarterback long-term, and Cousins appears to have the rare privilege of being in the catbird seat in these discussions.
Cousins and Washington have long been engaged in long-term extension talks, with differences in money previously keeping the two sides apart. Washington upped the ante with its May offer, which topped a previous offer of an average of around $20 million per year, Pelissero reported.
Only the first two years of the contract offer were really guaranteed, Pelissero added. The new five-year extension offer also had an average that was still well short of Cousins' existing franchise tag price of $23,942,600, per Pelissero.
Cousins' nearly $24 million salary for 2017 under the tag is guaranteed, so taking the aforementioned offer would only add one year of security and pay him slightly less, while also giving the Redskins control of the quarterback through 2021. They would also preserve their option to cut him loose any time after 2018 with little to no financial detriment.
It boiled down to a simple decision: Lock himself into being a Redskin without nearly as much of a commitment from the organization's side (relatively speaking), or take the slightly higher pay with less security in a huge bet on himself. He's going with the latter, despite the recently increased offer.
Cousins has already done it once, playing under the tag in 2016 (earning $19.96 million) and succeeding enough to position the Redskins on the cusp of the postseason and himself for another large, yet insecure contract. A second season under the tag will maximize his immediate earning power in pocketing him a great sum of money, and will preserve his flexibility, either setting him up for a bigger payday or a chance to play elsewhere, should things go south in Washington.