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Dear Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder: Are You All In or All Out? Redskins Must Sign Cousins

Sometimes the instinct to err on the side of conservatism makes sense—for the Redskins, that time is NOT NOW.

NFL: International Series-Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As I have repeated on The Audible in recent weeks, I was able to get comfortable with the Redskins’ right to make Kirk Cousins prove it on the field in 2016—despite my pleas for them to get a long-term contract in place with him during the 2015 season. They paid dearly to exercise their right, and by most measures, the team got some return on that investment. Is 8-7-1 the kind of season you pop champagne bottles over? No, but for those of us who remember 4-12 (you know...two years ago), we can appreciate what two straight winning records mean to the rebuilding effort.

The big failing of not signing Kirk long-term prior to putting the tag on him stems from all the things that were known at the time. We knew what the salary cap was likely to look like for the next three to five years (with a lot of certainty on the front side of that term). We knew what quarterbacks would be hitting the market, and subsequently setting the market. We knew/know that quarterbacks don’t decrease in value from a commodity standpoint. They only cost more and more. We knew that even on the high side in 2015/16, Kirk’s contract would only look more reasonable over time, as the salary cap expanded. This isn’t speculation. Franchises pay people top dollar to have a general understanding of these basic truths, so that when a decision needs to be made, it can be made inside the framework of this kind of thinking.

The Redskins used the tools at their disposal to ensure they kept their guy under center (franchise tag), and they did it paying a rate that was more than most people agree Kirk would have signed for...at some point (for example, if you think Kirk would have signed an $18 million per year deal at any point during the 2015 season). They asked their guy to prove it.

The problem for the Redskins is...Kirk proved it. He set back-to-back single-season franchise passing records, and proved to be one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league. He led an extremely potent offense (except for...ahem, cough, cough...in the red zone), and has only shown a willingness to work hard and strive for improvement.

Put simply: there is always room under the salary cap for a franchise quarterback. ALWAYS. I get that the argument turns more to whether or not Kirk is a franchise quarterback (I believe he is), and that is fair, but that is not the extent of the debate on which this decision hinges.

Can the Redskins be a winner now and into the future with Kirk Cousins?

Will the locker room follow this guy through adversity in good seasons and bad?

Does the player show a penchant for working to get better or does he feel like he is as good as he needs to be?

WHO THE HELL ELSE IS GOING TO BE THE QUARTERBACK IF KIRK COUSINS LEAVES?

We drafted the guy. We have watched him work every second of his professional career. Nobody knows more about him than the Redskins. The fact that there is any hemming and hawing at all is insane. This is a binary decision, guys. You either want him or you don’t. There is no such thing as, “I would take him for $23 million a year but not $26 million a year.” There is no such thing as, “I would give him $50 million guaranteed but not $60 million guaranteed.” Sorry, those words have no place AT ALL in this discussion. Sorry, but that is the kind of paralysis that binds inferior decision-makers. That is the kind of foolishness that causes you to break up with the hottest girl you have ever dated because you all of a sudden think you can pull crazy tail at will. You either keep Kirk or you don’t. If you want to keep him, you have to pay the market rate.

For a team that has made countless errors in the contract department, I get that there is some hesitation from the team before extending the largest contract in its history. This isn’t Adam Archuleta though, and it isn’t Albert Haynesworth, either. This is OUR guy. It might be new money, but it isn’t a new player that we would have to learn how to use and deploy.

We are about to hit the third year of a seemingly successful rebuild. You could only HOPE to be able to commit long term to a quarterback at this point of a rebuild. You could only PRAY that at this point in the comeback of a once-proud franchise, you would have a chance to add a franchise quarterback to the likes of Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Norman, Jordan Reed, Brandon Scherff and Jamison Crowder (all players signed for at least another two or three seasons or longer).

Let’s not overthink this—even in a worst-case scenario the team would likely have outs in this deal after three seasons or so. I simply don’t see any reason why a professional football organization wouldn’t pay the going rate to have a rising star quarterback in tow for at least that length of time.

For all those out there (James) who think I am putting this all on the Redskins and not enough on Kirk, you are absolutely right. The Redskins set this table when they tagged Kirk last season. This is the bed they made. Kirk—like every other guy in his position—would gladly take $44 million in cash to play two years of football if that is what the Redskins are offering (two consecutive tags). You want to hear Kirk say words and make concessions to a team that told him he had to prove to them he was worth a deal. I would argue he did all his talking and conceding on the field. Warts and all, Kirk Cousins is the best quarterback many of us have ever seen in burgundy and gold (I know some of you have been around long enough to see certain players in this conversation, but that is a column for another day).

The time for being cute about this situation is past. If the Redskins fail to secure Kirk Cousins with a long-term contract, they will IMMEDIATELY become every bit the joke they were when they made terrible decision after terrible decision during Dan Snyder’s early years as owner. The Redskins would once again become a place where players come to get paid, as opposed to coming here to “be part of something special,” like what we see in other cities. However, if the Redskins get their quarterback situation resolved properly with Kirk Cousins, Washington all of a sudden becomes an interesting destination for top free agent talent. The Redskins would all of a sudden become part of a conversation that involves only teams that appear to be serious about winning—and winning now.

Washington would be that “something special” that players and fans would want to be a part of, and 2017 would all of a sudden become the Year the Redskins Got Serious.

Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder—it’s time to get serious. Don’t mess this up for us. What’s more, don’t mess this up for you. This is the win you have been waiting for—that we have all been waiting for—and a few million bucks a year of salary cap space is not a good enough reason to let it escape our grasp.