Since “franchise tag” first became part of the NFL dictionary, only one quarterback previously has spent a full year playing under it. In 2016, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins joins Drew Brees, who spent 2005 under the tag before joining the Saints a decade ago.
So will having the team’s starting quarterback not under contract beyond the coming season be a distraction? I asked Washington defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois that question during a Monday visit to PFT Live.
“I understand everybody is talking about ‘the big contract, it’s a distraction,’ it’s not a distraction with this guy,” Jean Francois said. “The man’s franchise tag is, what, 19.5 [million]? I don’t see no distraction in that. I understand he wants security, I understand he wants the big bucks and all, but like Kirk Cousins said he bet on himself and that’s the best person to bet on. He knows he can put up better numbers than he did last year. He did a great job for us last year. A lot of people think he wasn’t even gonna do that. The team didn’t believe that Kirk Cousins did it, so Kirk’s betting on himself. Kirk knows he can do a better job than he did last year. The sky’s the limit for this kid because this kid has a very wide mind with guys around him that can make him better. Those guys can make him better and he can make those guys better. You got DeSean [Jackson], you’ve got Pierre [Garςon], you have [Jamison] Crowder, you have Jordan Reed, you have Vernon Davis, you have Niles Paul. You have the best left tackle in the NFL [Trent Williams] blocking your blind side. There’s nothing this kid can’t do and I understand with the schedule he has, if Kirk Cousins wants the money that he’s looking for, this is the schedule to accomplish it.”
But do any players, I asked, look at Cousins differently because the team hasn’t made him the long-term quarterback?
“At the end of the day this is gonna be the quarterback to lead us,” Jean Francois said. “We don’t have the RGIII and the Kirk Cousins controversy going on in the locker room for the first year. Now it’s all about Kirk. Everybody in the locker room gotta believe in the man with the ball. I believe in Kirk Cousins. I’ve seen it with my own eyes what this guy can do. Especially with the talent he has around him. Everybody in the locker room is behind Kirk. If you’re not, you’re a fool. The man’s betting on himself, the man’s that confident enough to know he can lead one of the best teams in the NFL to another division [title], to a playoff. He has that ability that he trusts himself enough to know that he can lead the Washington Redskins to another division [title] and another playoff appearance and make a deeper run in it.”
Sure, other guys may feel differently. But with a guy like Jean Francois — who has been to the playoffs five straight years with quarterbacks like Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck (twice), and Cousins leading the way — carrying the Kirk Cousins flag, the words from Jean Francois will have influence.