Kirk Cousins vs. the Redskins: Only one thing can solve this embarrassing fiasco

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Later this month, the Ringling Bros. Circus will pay its final visit to Washington. Though some might find it sad that a fond institution from their youth is ending, Dan Snyder presumably won’t be among them. Why? Because the Redskins owner has turf to defend, and if anybody or anything in D.C. is going to put on a show that includes men running around with only loose organization, dwindling attendance, overblown controversy, questionable ethics, elephants in rooms, tightrope walking, overcompensating ringmasters and clowns as far as the eye can see, it’s going to be the Washington Redskins, gosh darn it. (And Congress, I guess. But mostly the Redskins.)

The latest salvo in Washington’s war with itself is the report that Kirk Cousins, who has yet to sign his $24 million exclusive franchise tender, reportedly asked Snyder for a trade and was rebuffed. This could be taken one of two ways:

1. Cousins wants a long-term deal, and this was his way or saying “pay or I don’t play.” That’s understandable, very reasonable and will probably have zero appeal to Snyder, who’s never wrong and is still smarting that Mike Shanahan was right about Cousins being better than Robert Griffin III.

2. Cousins has no intention of playing for the Redskins again.

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But here’s where Kirk unintentionally did Washington a favor. Unlike the folks with which he’s negotiating, Cousins is a stand-up guy who sees the long view. Making threats and whining about playing on the Redskins in 2017 (while making $24 million guaranteed) isn’t going to help him get the $60 million guaranteed he’s going to want in 2018. So, Cousins is going to eventually sign that tender and will be in camp giving full, concerted and total effort. He can play his hand now, but if they call his bluff, he’s not going anywhere in 2017. Even the Redskins can’t be obtuse enough to not know this, so Cousins’ trade demands will fade into the ether, soon to be forgotten just like every Redskins season since 1991.

You’ll allow Mr. Cousins the attempt, however. The stories out of Washington manage to top themselves daily, so it’s not entirely out of the question that Dan Snyder wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and offers Cousins to San Francisco for a fifth-round pick, a nice Ghirardelli sampler and annual Airbnb access to one of those Full House townhouses. Everything is believable. You could make up literally any headline on a fake-news click farm and post it to and it would, for at least a few seconds, fool people. There’s no scenario too outlandish. “Well, it seems a little weird that Washington would fire Jay Gruden and replace him with Bruce Allen’s nephew, but whatever. Trust the process.” Consider the following stories, all true and all happening in the past week (and more):

• Team ready to pay quarterback $44 million guaranteed refuses to pay him $65 million guaranteed

• Deposed general manager seen wandering around town wearing full gear of team that wants him to quit

• Grown egomaniacs quarreling over who gets credit for 8-7-1 season

• Desperate NFL owner inquires about Peyton Manning’s status for 2017

• Team signs free agents, extends coach without GM present

• Name of star quarterback appears once on team’s propaganda official website

See, you believed that Peyton thing for a few seconds, didn’t you?

Maybe the Cousins thing isn’t so bad though. The optimistic Redskins fan will say this latest tidbit could suggest there’s a better chance of a deal. The wounds are raw. Cousins’ feelings are hurt that he didn’t get the deal last year. There’s this ongoing, only-in-Washington nonsense with Scot McCloughan. There’s the temporary allure of Kyle Shanahan and San Francisco, where the sky’s the limit and the limit is a blown 25-point lead in the Super Bowl. But, in sports at least, money heals all. If the Redskins came out Cousins with the right offer — five years, $120 million, $64 million guaranteed (the $24 million from this year plus $40 million more — then he’d sign. There’s betting on yourself and then there’s being stupid.

Washington is a mess, but it’s not like San Francisco is the San Antonio Spurs of the NFL. They’re on their third coach in three years, the first team to do that in almost four decades. They have new management with zero experience. Their owner chased away the best coach the team has had since Bill Walsh. Kyle Shanahan stepped into a perfect situation in Atlanta and has yet to prove he can do it without Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. For all we know, San Francisco may be Washington West. That, coupled with the possibility of injury, regression or mediocrity, makes Kirk Cousins getting paid now the wisest choice, even if that means popping on a red nose and permanently joining the biggest circus in sports.