Upstairs at Redskins Park on Monday morning, Washington Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar and his agent were led into the team's opulent "Contract Room," where a three-year contract awaiting his signature had been placed on the large round table.
"The first of many blessings," Dunbar called it in his Instagram post, thanking the team for its belief in making him a Redskin for three more years.
Meanwhile, in the locker room downstairs, dozens of players packed up their belongings the morning after an 18-10 humbling at the New York Giants had rendered the sum of their efforts since early August a gutting disappointment.
"Missed opportunities, I feel like, would be one of the themes of this year," said outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who finished the 7-9 season with 13 sacks.
Defensive captain D.J. Swearinger was more blunt, calling 7-9 "unacceptable."
"Anything less than the playoffs is a failure in my eyes," Swearinger said. "Next year, the goal is to try to find ways to where we can be a playoff contender."
Right tackle Morgan Moses offered specifics on the offseason to-do list. "Obviously, being 1-5 in our division is not good enough; it's not acceptable," Moses said. "We have to be able to win on the road. We have to take care of situational football in the red zone, handle two-minute drills. We've got to stop people and be better on special teams."
All three spoke from the perspective of veterans under multiyear contracts with the Redskins, as sure as an NFL player can be that they will be back to help Coach Jay Gruden rebuild in 2018. Dunbar, a 6-foot-2 wide receiver-turned-cornerback, joined their ranks in signing his three-year deal Monday — a move that suggested cornerback Bashaud Breeland is welcome to test his value on the free agent market.
In the locker room Monday, it might have been a day for packing and farewells. But upstairs, the business of the NFL rolled on.
For most of the Redskins who stuffed a season's worth of belongings in plastic bags, their future with the team remains an open question. Nineteen players head into the offseason as unrestricted free agents — quarterback Kirk Cousins most notable among them. And though Cousins wasn't among the players who spoke with reporters Monday — he had departed by mid-morning after leaving holiday gift bags in front of the 11 offensive linemen's lockers — the subject of Cousins's future in Washington crept into nearly every conversation about the Redskins' direction in 2018.
"He's an elite quarterback, in my eyes," said Moses, 26, the team's only offensive lineman to start all 16 games this season. "He has the smarts, he has the tools, he gets the ball out of his hands fast, he's able to read defenses — all the things you ask a quarterback to do in the NFL. I don't know how it's going to play out; it's above my paygrade. But at the end of the day, it's been an amazing journey to have him as my quarterback these last four years."
After Sunday's loss to the Giants, Cousins said he would discuss his future at a charitable fan forum Friday in Vienna, Va., that's being organized with 106.7 the Fan's "Grant and Danny."
Until his 2018 landing spot is settled — whether with the Redskins or a rival team — it will be difficult for the team's front office to proceed with many of the free agents it wants to extend, the free agents it hopes to sign and the draft prospects it's eyeing.
There are three basic options:
• Sign him to a long-term contract — a step Cousins has shown little interest in.
• Prevent him from signing elsewhere by applying a third consecutive NFL franchise tag — at (an arguably) cost-prohibitive price tag of $34.5 million for one season.
• Preserve the right to match any competing offer via the NFL's transition tag — at a cost of $28.7 million.
With Cousins declining to address his future as the season played out, there was little his teammates could add Monday, apart from voicing admiration for his leadership and toughness. Each player had his own career to address, his own offseason training program to start after fulfilling the final obligations of the 2017 campaign, which included a body-composition test and an "exit physical."
"I know that's the story right now: if Kirk will be back," said inside linebacker Will Compton, among the pending free agents, when asked about the topic. "It's the same old story, but now it's more real than ever. . . . 'Should they pay him? Should they not? Is he going to came back? Does he want to come back? Forget Kirk! We love you, Kirk!' All that stuff."
Cornerback Josh Norman, the team's highest-paid defensive player, was decidedly downbeat after the 7-9 finish, summing up his sentiments as "Crap."
Norman offered no comment when asked about the Redskins' roster heading into 2018, or on Cousins's future. "That's their decision," Norman noted, "not mine."
Asked to rate his own performance, Norman said he believed it was "really solid."
"I know when you look at it overall, when you look at the interceptions category . . . I didn't have any interceptions," Norman said. "Shoot, when they don't throw you the ball to your side, how many opportunities or chances can you get?
"You look at that and you see, you are affecting the game more than you really think if you don't have those plays. If you go back and look, I don't think my peers would have given me a spot [as a Pro Bowl alternate] if that wasn't the case."
Running back Kapri Bibbs, who was out of work when signed to the Redskins' practice squad in late November and hopes to return in 2018, said he only hoped the front office took notice of his effort and results when given the chance.
"I couldn't be more blessed to be part of a team like this," said Bibbs, who averaged 3.8 yards per carry and caught 14 passes after being thrust into the lineup in Week 15. "I had to come in here and earn my stripes. And I'm going to be consistent in the way I go about my work. You know what you're going to get out of me every single day: You're going to get a smile, and I'm going to take care of my job."