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Relax, Washington fans. News that contract talks have ceased between Kirk Cousins and the team is not foreboding. A look at why patience will pay off for both parties, plus more on Manning, Mayo and mail

By Peter King
February 17, 2016

If I were a fan of the NFC East champions, I wouldn’t be concerned about the quarterback walking out the door. At all.

Kirk Cousins is the long-term quarterback in Washington, and general manager Scot McCloughan is too smart to let him walk out the door. Coach Jay Gruden is too enamored of Cousins to let him walk out the door. And owner Dan Snyder would blast into orbit if the franchise quarterback he once thought was Robert Griffin III but now knows is Cousins walked out the door. So Cousins is not walking out the door in Washington.

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Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Tuesday that the team and the looming free-agent quarterback have broken off contract talks on a long-term deal. That’s significant only if you care how much money Cousins will make in 2016—but not if you only want to be sure he’ll be Washington’s quarterback. And barring some extraordinary change of heart by an entire front office and coaching staff that loves the guy, Cousins will be in Washington for the foreseeable future.

The fact that news appears from a reliable reporter four weeks to the day before the market opens says to me that the team is sending the message that if Cousins is serious about getting a long-term deal, he’d better tone down his salary demands. Whether he does or doesn’t just isn’t that big a deal. If he doesn’t, Washington likely will place the franchise tag on him (about $19.7 million), and Cousins will play for his future again in 2016.

There is nothing not to like about Cousins. He’s altar-boy nice, Derek Jeter-like in his work ethic and studies the game with a passion that fits Gruden’s style. It would fit with any coach. Then the performance caught up with all the other positives in the last 10 weeks of the 2015 regular season. Cousins quarterbacked Washington to a 7-3 record, with 23 touchdown passes and three interceptions; his passer rating was above 100 in eight of those 10 games. Gruden’s gamble in naming Cousins the quarterback for the full season on Labor Day paid off handsomely. And it will pay off for Cousins—either with a new contract or with a $19.7 million payday for the 2016 season alone—at some point. Washington brass is too smart to mess this one up.

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Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Mayo retires

Kudos to New England linebacker Jerod Mayo, who announced his retirement on Facebook last night, one week shy of his 30th birthday. He was beat up too much in his later years, but he actually had a very good career on the best team of recent times. He missed 20 games due to injury in 2013 and 2014 and was placed on IR in each of his last three seasons with pectoral, knee and shoulder injuries. Smart for him to get out before he pushed himself too hard to continue playing when not whole.

The Patriots drafted him 10th overall in 2008, and he was at his best early in his career. He earned 49 of 50 first-place votes for the 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year award after recording 128 tackles for New England that season. In 2010 he had 175 tackles—and not many men have averaged 11 tackles a week in the past few years.

It’s admirable to see players who must still want to play leave the game on their own terms. Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower were more important at linebacker for New England recently, but Mayo didn’t complain. He understood that in Bill Belichick’s world, the players who show up are the players who will rise in importance, and Mayo was just hurt too much. Now is a good time for him to go, and he should be applauded for it.

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Doug Devoe/Sporting News via Getty Images

On Manning

Before I get to your email, a note about the first few pieces I've included below.

I’ve never wanted to be a censor with your mail, and I’m not starting this week. I received an avalanche of messages critical of me for not coming down harder on Peyton Manning in the wake of reports and new court filings that allege an ugly incident between him and a female trainer in 1996, when Manning was a player at the University of Tennessee.

I wrote on Monday that if the story is true, and there is certainly evidence to suggest that it is, then it is reprehensible and indefensible. It certainly would factor into his legacy.

More and more today, when a good portion of evidence is presented in a case, we are asked to believe the story, based on the portion of evidence we have seen. The person accused is guilty until proven innocent. This story happened 20 years ago. There are serious charges that Manning helped impede or obstruct the investigation or story in the years after it happened. He was not charged with a crime at the time or since, and thus has not been convicted of anything. A settlement, which he reached with the trainer, is not admission of a crime.

This week I’ve assigned a reporter from The MMQB to the story, and the reporter will be traveling to try to advance the story. We did the same thing when Al Jazeera charged that Manning’s wife, Ashley, received multiple shipments of human growth hormone, the clear implication being that she was covering for Peyton Manning and that the shipments were intended for him as he recovered from four neck procedures more than four years ago.

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So we’ll pursue the story and see where it leads. Now on to your email, first some Manning reaction, followed by others:

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MANNING COVERAGE CRITICISM

One thing you seem totally miss about Shaun King's article is the newly reported information about how Peyton and Archie Manning often [resorted] to racially-based excuses and coded attacks (my interpretation) against this trainer. That is something I do not ever remember being covered before and should be discussed by the mainstream NFL media (including you). The NFL is 70 percent black I believe, and to know that Peyton (and Archie) Manning may have cavalierly discussed a white woman's alleged sexual preferences for African-Americans in reference to attacking her character and credibility is important for the NFL fan base to explore.

—Jaron

I was disappointed with your take on the Peyton Manning case as mere, "He said, She said" and biased on behalf of the woman. The trial transcript makes it very clear that the trainer had witnesses who backed up her version of what took place in both the training room and on a trip to West Virginia. Furthermore, Manning broke the non-disclosure agreement by publishing his false account in a book, an account which helped ruin the woman's career.

—Paula L., San Francisco

It may not have been your intention, but the way you framed the case as a “20-year-old incendiary device,” minimizes the impact sexual assault has on people. You reference “20 years” several times, as though a person can just move on from a sexual violation. Once it happens, it stays with a person forever.

—Torri

Wow, Peter, way to gloss over the Manning fiasco. That story makes me rethink his whole role in the HGH flap. You are way too close to Manning if you think this boils down to a He said, She said incident. There are numerous witnesses who refute everything Manning has said about Dr. Naughright. And this is after you practically convicted Jameis Winston of sexual assault. You really need to rethink your stance.

—Todd M.

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RAIDERS IN SANTA CLARA

Why is there very little talk about the Raiders joining the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara? The New York teams have operated that way for years, and now Los Angeles is poised to do the same. With resources in Oakland limited, it just makes sense for the Raiders to stay close to home and play in an already built, state-of-the-art stadium.

—Mike

It does make sense, but Mark Davis doesn’t want to do it. And since he owns the team, he can make that decision. Davis feels the Raiders should not be a tenant anywhere and so will look to either play at the old Coliseum or find a new home elsewhere in the Bay Area or someplace where he would get a great stadium deal.

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ON MCCOY

Regarding LeSean McCoy, you mention the Bills taking a cap hit to release him. I understand that, there’s been no trial, outside of public perception. I’m sure I don’t know the full details of any league agreements, but why shouldn’t the process work like this:

• If a player is arrested for a crime and in jail, he can’t play, does not get paid.
• If a player makes bail, awaiting trial, he has not been convicted, should play and get paid.

• If a player is found guilty, his team can cut him immediately without any financial consequence.

Weren’t the Patriots able to cut Aaron Hernandez without any penalty, even though he hadn’t been convicted at the time?

—Grant G.

Here is the issue with all of that. Last year the NFL set a precedent with Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy, allowing teams to pay them in full while they fought ugly cases in court. Because of that precedent, I doubt seriously that either McCoy or his agent would agree to him being fired if he is contesting a charge for which he has not been convicted. Also, the Bills could well be thinking, once all the facts are in, that McCoy is innocent or there are significant extenuating circumstances, and the team may want to take a chance on McCoy being free of any legal entanglements before the season begins. I get your point, that teams shouldn’t pay for the sins of players by taking salary cap hits in cases like this. But I think there are many reasons why teams might end up cutting players, and to absolve teams of any financial responsibility while a court case is being resolved is not right either.

SUPER BOWL SKATING

Got any story planned about the turf problems the NFL had with SB50? The tape of Michael Oher skating backward is comical … until you realize the it was a dry, warm day in Santa Clara.

—Michael A.

Probably not. I saw that Vine, and my first thought was that Oher should have been wearing longer cleats. But I do think that before the NFL would ever give another Super Bowl to the Bay Area, the problems with the turf have to be addressed.

BATTING THE BALL

But Peter, regarding Von Miller batting the ball after Cam Newton's fumble, aren’t all turnovers reviewed? Why didn’t the head of NFL officiating call batting the ball on Miller?

—David R.

The illegal bat is not subject to replay review, as we all learned during the K.J. Wright fiasco. That’s something that should change, but it currently is viewed as a judgment call by the on-field officials. The league probably should think of changing the interpretation of that call so that an illegal bat, which seems obvious to even the untrained eye, would be judged differently than is defensive pass interference. As of now, both are deemed judgment calls and thus not eligible to be changed by replay.

WHAT ABOUT CAROLINA’S DEFENSE?

I think the thing that has been overlooked the most in this Super Bowl was how dominant Carolina's defense was. They held Manning to 141 yards passing and a 56.6 rating. (Cam's rating was 55.4.) They held Denver running backs to 90 yards. They forced three fumbles (but only recovered one) and an interception. They sacked Manning five times. How many Super Bowl defenses have done that and lost? If not for a Herculean effort by Denver's defense, Carolina's defense would be getting a lot of ink for how dominantly it performed.

—Peter F., San Diego

Carolina’s defense absolutely played well enough to win. This game reminded me in some ways of a great pitching matchup in major league baseball. The guy who loses 2-1 while striking out 11 and giving up four hits in eight innings isn’t celebrated the way the winner who pitches similarly is. But this isn’t a case of the Panthers defense being forgotten; it’s just simply a case of, To the victor, go the spoils. But one of the reasons why the Panthers are so highly regarded by the oddsmakers entering next season is because we all saw how great their defense was in the playoffs. Throw in a young, increasingly dominant quarterback in Cam Newton for the next few years, and Carolina should be the team to beat in the NFC South for awhile.

NEW COMMISSIONER

Like many NFL fans, I'm not a fan of Roger Goodell as commissioner, so I tried to think of someone who would be a good replacement. It didn't take me long. What would you think if the NFL turned the reins over to all-time NFL great and recently retired state supreme court justice Alan Page? He was there in the trenches, tough as nails, and one of the greatest football players to ever lace up a set of cleats. That leads me to believe the players union would have a lot more respect for him than they do Goodell. Also, since he is a retired state supreme court justice, the legal issues the league has to deal with would be right up his alley. What do you think?

—Tim S.

I’m a big fan of Alan Page, but I don't see this happening. I’m not sure the owners would ever hire a commissioner at age 70 who they don’t really know. Is he progressive? Is he in tune with new media and the places these owners want to take football? Is he on their side in wanting to grow this game to almost double the size in the next 15 years? I don’t know very much about Alan Page other than the fact that he is an extremely intelligent man, as anyone who is a supreme court justice would be. I think something like that sounds good to you and maybe even to me, but I doubt it would sound very enticing to 32 owners, most of whom don’t know him.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.  

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