Some criticism fluttered about when the Washington Redskins slapped the tag on Cousins, paying him a boatload with so few starts, but general manager Scot McCloughan had little choice. Given the dearth of signal-callers on the market, there would have been a huge bidding war for Cousins that might have cost the Redskins even more -- Brock Osweiler got $37 million guaranteed for seven uneven starts.
The team expects to engage in long-term contract discussions with Cousins at some point this summer, but in a sit down with the Bleacher Report's Jason Cole at the NFL Annual Meeting last month, McCloughan made it sound like the Redskins are comfortable letting the quarterback play out the year under that franchise number.
"I told Kirk when he came in -- and his wife must have hugged me for 10 minutes because he just went from making $600,000 to $19.9 million -- I told him: 'You take care of me and this organization, we're going to take care of you. I promise. And we're going to build this roster to where you can be average and still be good. I promise you,'" McCloughan said.
McCloughan's comment about building the roster where the quarterback can be "average and still be good" speaks to the ceiling of expectations the front office has about their quarterback.
If Cousins improves upon his stellar play down the stretch, the Redskins will have no qualms about paying him top-dollar. If he implodes, McCloughan avoided a salary cap-crippling contract.
"Correct, and I'm OK with that (laughs)," McCloughan said when it was suggested he might need to overpay if all goes well in 2016. "Let me overpay him if he's good. If you have a productive guy, it helps everything, and it proves out. You look around this league and see the teams that are in the playoffs every year and look who the quarterbacks are. Look at the ones who win. It proves out.
"Don't get me wrong, the O-line is huge. The running game is huge, which we had in Seattle. But when it's all said and done and the quarterback can get the guys rallied around him, you have a chance. You're going to play good defense. That's easy to fix. You just draft good football players. They can be a small guy, a big guy, as long as they can find the ball. The special teams are going to be good because we're going to build through the draft, so the younger guys will be big in that. But that quarterback, I'm telling you ..."
Quarterback is the most important position in professional sports, and too few people on the planet are capable of performing in that spot. If Cousins proves he's the answer, the Redskins will happily pay. But it sounds like they could wait until 2017 to make that decision.