Gruden has ‘major regrets’ Washington didn’t extend or trade Cousins originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
It’s been four years since Washington let quarterback Kirk Cousins walk in free agency and Jay Gruden is still not happy about it.
Cousins, 34, played his final two seasons in D.C. on the franchise tag before signing a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 that set a then-record for the largest contract in NFL history. He’s since signed two subsequent extensions to stay in Minnesota while the Commanders have cycled through a carousel of quarterbacks.
Gruden lost his job five games into the 2019 season, a year in which Case Keenum, the late Dwayne Haskins and Colt McCoy all started under center with Alex Smith rehabbing from a gruesome leg injury. The former head coach, now an offensive consultant for the Los Angeles Rams, joined 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on Friday and lamented how Cousins’ exit was handled.
“Yeah, for sure,” Gruden said when asked whether he would’ve signed Cousins to a long-term deal had it been up to him. “You see what happens. The options were limited. We were lucky to get Alex. Unfortunately, we lost Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick to get him. If you do lose a quarterback of that stature who gets $100 million then you better get something for him. That’s where we missed the boat. That’s what we have major regrets about.”
Quarterbacks of Cousins’s pedigree rarely reach free agency. More often than not, they either sign extensions with the teams that drafted them or end up traded to a team more willing to pay them. Washington didn’t take either route, opting instead to take things year by year before ultimately losing him to the Vikings for no compensation.
That’s not to say it’s been all roses for Cousins in Minneapolis. The Vikings have only made the playoffs once during his tenure and they fired head coach Mike Zimmer last offseason on the heels of back-to-back losing seasons. Cousins has made two Pro Bowls over that span but also earned a reputation for coming up short in primetime games.
For Gruden, it wasn’t necessarily about keeping Cousins, but maximizing his value one way or the other.
“Look what the Lions got for losing [Matthew] Stafford,” Gruden said. “They got [Jared] Goff. You gotta get a couple first-rounders and a couple second-rounders and a couple players for a quarterback because, like you guys mentioned earlier, it is the hardest position to play in sports and if you lose a guy, how do you replace him? Unfortunately, we got Alex and he played well but he got hurt and after that it was chaotic.”