Unfortunately for Washington, Cousins is a long way from playing like either.
Regardless of where he currently ranks among other quarterbacks in relation to quality, Cousins has leverage that comes from a franchise tag that would cost the team $23.94 million in 2017. The alternative is to sign him to a long-term deal based on his market value.
He seems to be intent on figuring out exactly what his market value is, and maximizing it.
“[T]here’s other quarterbacks that come after you and it would be almost a selfish move to hurt future quarterbacks who get in a position to have a contract,” Cousins told 106.7 The Fan in D.C. on Monday. “And if you don’t take a deal that’s fair to you, then you’re also taking a deal that’s not fair to them and you’re setting them back as well. So there’s different reasons. You just do the best you can.”
That’s a far cry from McCloughan’s preference that Cousins do a deal that leaves other money for other players, so that the team can thrive. Cousins has a plan for that possibility, albeit an unrealistic one.
“[F]rankly, once you sign the contract, there’s no law saying you can’t renegotiate,” Cousins said. “If you signed a deal and you end up coming away from two seasons saying, ‘Hey, not only did we not win, but I think the reason is that I’m taking too much,’ then you can always talk about changing that, but I don’t a need to do that on the front end.”
The problem with this logic is that it’s unlikely that the two sides ever would agree that: (1) the quarterback’s contract is holding back the franchise; and (2) he should reduce it accordingly. Typically, players will take less money than they’re contractually entitled to receive only if they know that no one else will offer them as much or more.
“[Y]ou want to find your value and then be able to play off of that accordingly,” Cousins said.
If Washington won’t be investing $23.94 million in a quarterback whose interception helped doom a playoff run against a Giants team that had nothing to gain or lose, Cousins will find his value in the two-day window before he becomes a free agent. And if Houston’s experience with Brock Osweiler makes another team leery about a proverbial pig in a poke, Cousins will find that his value isn’t what he hoped it would be.
No matter how it plays out, the message is clear: Cousins plans to sign a contract that reflects his market value, whatever it may be and whether Washington likes it or not.
Cousins has every right to do that. He should do that. But he shouldn’t act like he’s making a sacrifice for the benefit of future quarterbacks.
He’s getting every dollar he can while he can get it. And he should admit that he’s being justifiably selfish when it comes to his own income instead of creating the impression that he’s looking to grab every dollar not for his own benefit but for the benefit of the quarterbacks who come after him.