While a long-term deal is certainly still a possibility for Kirk Cousins in 2016, the quarterback isn't concern about money or playing under the franchise tag for the 2016 season.
Even if his rookie contract gave him a yearly salary of less than $1 million a year, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is currently the team's franchise tag player for the 2016 season, will never be solely motivated about how much money he makes while playing in the NFL.
Not now, not ever.
"I never played football thinking about money, and going forward I never want to play football thinking about money," Cousins told ESPN.com’s Jim Trotter this week. "That's why I think it's important for me to play with a salary that's just locked in. I don't want to be thinking about individual accomplishments or rewards that would boost my salary or up my numbers. I just want to go out and play football and try and win games. So whether I'm making what I made last year or this year, I just want to play football and treat it like I did back in high school and love playing. It's a tremendous blessing to be paid to play this game the way I will this year."
Cousins, the only quarterback in the NFL that was given the franchise tag designation for the season, will make almost $20 million in 2016.
Of course, Cousins is coming off his best professional season in 2015, as he started all 16 games and threw for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions.
Selected as the December NFC Offensive Player of the Month (which also included Week 17 action in early January), Cousins, who led the Redskins on a four-game winning streak to end the season, accumulated 13 touchdowns to one interception while also rushing for touchdowns in back-to-back games against the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills.
Against the Eagles in the Redskins' NFC East-clinching victory on Dec. 26, Cousins went 31-for-46 for 365 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
Check out the top images of Kirk Cousins from the 2015 season.
After the season's end, the Redskins and Cousins opened contract talks. While they couldn't come to an agreement on a multi-year deal before the March 1 franchise tag deadline, Cousins said this week that "discussions are always ongoing."
The sides can negotiate up until July 15 for a new deal.
"You're never really finished," Cousins said of contract talks. "It's a process and I think much like the process of preparing for a football game, you're not ready to play the game on Wednesday; you prepare to get ready for Sunday. I think negotiations often work that way. You know that maybe it's not Sunday yet -- it's Wednesday in this negotiation -- and we're just taking steps toward what will eventually be Sunday. So we'll see. Obviously it gets more interesting as it gets closer to 'game day,' if you will."
And even if they can't get a long-term deal completed within the next four months, Cousins says playing with the franchise tag is "a great opportunity to prove yourself again."
"I think that's part of playing in this league and being in a lot of pressure situations and facing a lot of scrutiny. ... I was a much better quarterback going into that playoff game than I was going into Week 1," Cousins said. "And I guess that's why there's a lot of excitement going forward because you feel like if that much growth could take place -- not just in me as a player, but in our offense and in our team in 17 weeks -- why can't we continue to grow and take steps forward in our offseason program and training camp and go into another season?
"I think a lot of us are excited, especially on the offensive side of the ball, for some of the chemistry we've been able to build and the future that lies ahead," Cousins concluded. "I think the key is to not get complacent."