hall not sure cousins wanted to be here

BY BEN STANDIG | FEB. 25, 2018

Whether the Redskins improved by swapping quarterback Kirk Cousins for Alex Smith is unclear. But, that teammates will no longer be relentlessly asked about the contract status for a player who wanted out should help the locker room, according to safety DeAngelo Hall.

Hall, the longest tenured player on the roster at the end of the 2017 season, said last week he was unsure if “Kirk wanted to be here” during an exclusive interview with The Sports Capitol.

With no signs of commitment from Cousins, who becomes a free agent without another franchise tag at $34.4 million, Washington struck a deal with Kansas City for Smith in January. The trade cannot be finalized until March 14.

“[Smith] wanted to be here,” Hall said. “When he was in Kansas City he reached out to those guys in Kansas City and told them, ‘Hey, I understand you guys want to move me. Could you try to get me to Washington? I really want to get to Washington.’ For a guy to really want us as a team, as teammates, that means a lot, that means a whole lot where, you know. It felt like Kirk was forced to be here. I wish nothing but the best for him and whatever is next for him, but this organization is doing nothing but going up.”

Questions from reporters about the Cousins contract conundrum became a year-long staple for Redskins players. Barring a dramatic ploy by the organization to hold Cousins’ rights, those questions will dissipate. Hall argues that the morale boost when players report for organized team activity sessions (OTAs) in May should be noticeable.

“Absolutely, it lifts the spirits, it lifts a weight, a burden (from) being asked that question,” Hall said.

Hall noted the Redskins have been through a similar situation when the team finally chose to move on from Robert Griffin III after the 2015 season. Cousins started all 16 games that year.

“I remember during the whole (Griffin) saga. ‘Is it RG or Kirk? Is it RG or Kirk?’” Hall said. “Then when [Griffin] was released…that lifted a burden off of us. That lifted the spirits in the locker room because we knew we had that one guy and there wasn’t a big divide about these guys like him and these guys like him. To have that one guy in Kirk at the time lifted the locker room. It’s kind of that same scenario.”

BREAKING BURGUNDY PODCAST: More from DeAngelo Hall on his future plans and the Redskins secondary.

Cousins, a three-year starter, played under the franchise tag in 2016 and 2017 after he and the Redskins could not agree on a long-term contract. The idea of using a third tag became financially and structurally untenable for the Redskins.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, speaking on his NBC4 television show in early January, didn’t think the relationship could continue on that way.

“I think something has to be done. I personally don’t want to go through another one-year deal, and just (continue) one year, one year,” Gruden said. “I think you want to have a quarterback in here that’s going to be here. And hopefully that is Kirk, and if not, we have to move on and do what we have to do as an organization.”

Hall, 34, also discussed his future options with The Sports Capitol, which include potentially returning to the Redskins for a 14th season or joining the organization in a non-playing capacity.

Hall’s tenure with the team provided lessons into how rosters are built, especially the dynamics of quarterback drama in a locker room, and the salary-cap crunch that comes with signing players to huge contracts that don’t work out, like former defensive end Albert Haynesworth.

NFL penalties levied against the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys for how they restructured contracts in 2010 impacted how much those teams had to spend in free agency in 2012 and 2013. That penalty combined with trading multiple draft picks for the right to select Griffin limited Washington’s ability to improve its roster.

“It’s the process,” Hall said. “Along that journey there are things that happened as far as trading for (Griffin) and losing draft picks. That set the franchise back. There was moving my money and Haynesworth’s money into the uncapped year [in 2010], which gave us a steep, steep cap penalty two years in a row. Didn’t allow us to get better in certain areas. To have all of that behind us and have (team president) Bruce Allen at the reigns — and Scot McCloughan was here for a little while helping out, and (senior vice president of player personnel) Doug Williams.

“To have all of those [front office] guys in place now, you can just see that things are running smoothly. Maybe it’s not the guy people want, but it’s the guy who can help us. I think this organization has done a great job. I know a lot of people are hurt that Kirk is moving on. I love Kirk, but I don’t know if Kirk wanted to be here. For us as an organization, we had to look for the next guy and Alex was the next guy.”

Photo by Joe Glorioso for The Sports Capitol