*Speaking with the media on Wednesday, both general manager Scot McCloughan and head coach Jay Gruden believe a long-term contract with Kirk Cousins is still an option as the franchise tag deadline approaches. *
Washington Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan wouldn't give away any percentage of his confidence level as to whether quarterback Kirk Cousins will return to the Redskins for 2016. Nor would he "negotiate through the media" about the status of each side.
But, as he stood in front of press Wednesday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, he remained hopeful that a long-term contract would get done, a feeling he gained after meeting with Cousins' agent in Indianapolis and speaking with the quarterback last week in his office.
"There's conversations going on every day," McCloughan said. "I know that he respects the Redskins quite a bit and I know he wants to be here, but it's a business. We're trying to do what we need to do, he's trying to get what he needs to get, and I respect that. I've been through this many times at other organizations and it takes a little time, it's not something you do overnight."
Head coach Jay Gruden, who answered questions at the podium prior to McCloughan speaking, feels "pretty good" that the team will strike a deal with Cousins, who he believes improved greatly once he took the starting job late in the preseason.
"We'd like to have Kirk back on our football team, no doubt," Gruden said. "He made serious strides. Showed a lot of improvement throughout the season and we feel great about his upside and letting him be the starter from day one in OTAs, training camp and then taking the job and running with it and seeing how much he improves."
While the franchise tag deadline (March 1) is fast approaching, McCloughan made it clear a long-term contract for Cousins is still very much on the table, especially considering it would ease the burden on the salary cap and allow him to put money into other positions.
McCloughan admitted he likes to "take care of our own" and knows Cousins is respected in the locker room and developed a lot of strong relationships with coaches in the last year. That point isn't lost on him, and it's part of the reason why McCloughan isn't worried a large contract would add extra pressure on Cousins' next season.
"I think he can [handle the pressure],"McCloughan said. "I mean, you saw what he did in the second half of the season. We had some tough games going down to the end and he stepped up and played. And again, this is my first time going through this with all these guys and to see how he responded, the players respond to him, the coaches respond to him, was pretty impressive."
In the case that the Redskins and Cousins can't agree on a contract and he slips into free agency, and with the fact that President Bruce Allen all but admitted that Robert Griffin III will be released soon, the front office, along with Gruden, is prepared to move forward with a contingency plan.
Backup quarterback Colt McCoy will be a free agent and there may be a few quarterbacks that could be worth pursuing if they slip back into the later rounds of the draft.
"We're already looking. We're looking at other alternatives," Gruden affirmed. "Colt's a guy that we have to talk about also. He's a free agent. We've got a lot 'if' issues on our football team – not just at the quarterback position – that have to be fixed here shortly."
McCloughan reiterated that there are 52 other men on the roster, and while not all of them have the same value, he wants to make sure he constructs the best football team, and that the organization is "taken care of."
"It's the business for you, it's the NFL and there's 31 other teams out there that have money," McCloughan said. "If they want to come take some of our guys, which hopefully, going forward you guys are going to see more and more because we're going to win more games that all of a sudden we're going to lose some guys. But hopefully Kirk's back, and again, it's a business, and we're going through the process right now."