As expected the Redskins and Kirk Cousins did not come to an agreement on a new contract so he will play out the season on a one year franchise tag. Washington released a statement following the passing of the deadline which outlined the parameters of their offer.
“On May 2nd, right after the draft, we made Kirk an offer that included the highest fully guaranteed amount upon signing for a quarterback in NFL history ($53 million) and guaranteed a total of $72 million for injury. The deal would have made him at least the second highest-paid player by average per year in NFL history.”
The statement, which goes on to say that the team never received a counter offer from Cousins agents is obviously damage control for Washington, who has handled the situation pretty poorly. I think the numbers above likely paint a picture as to why this is a relationship that is simply not working.
The May 2nd date means two things. One is that the framework that we have to value this contract goes back to making an offer prior to the Derek Carr extension being complete. Since many NFL extensions don’t get done until July I would say there is a good chance Washington’s front office simply assumed no new contracts would pop up until after the July 17 franchise deadline.
The second thing the date tells me is that Washington continued to drag their feet on any contract talks. To wait until the draft to make an offer meant they were either shopping Cousins or were waiting until a few spots he maybe had in mind in 2018 selected in hopes they would pick a QB. Either way I don’t believe it shows the proactive approach that was probably needed to help the relationship. It certainly sounds like they didn’t make another offer either, which is not a great sign for anyone.
The fact that Washington failed to disclose the APY while giving the guaranteed numbers probably means that the offer was not as great, especially in light of the Carr contract, as they want to make it seem. There are a number of different ways to value contracts in the NFL and technically as of May 2nd the second highest paid player by APY was Drew Brees at $24.25 million. That said Brees was on a one year extension and the two year value on his contract is $22.125 million, which is right below Joe Flacco’s $22.13 million extension. I would say that it is likely that Cousins offer was in the $22.2 million per year range.
One my pet peeves with contract extensions is when people make a big deal out of the guaranteed numbers without taking into account any guarantees. The $53M number sounds wonderful, except Cousins is already guaranteed $24 million on the season. That is not even a paper figure….its an actual guarantee. So Washington is offering to guarantee Cousins another $29 million to sign this contract.
FWIW that $29M is about the cost that it would take Washington to transition tag him next year and is less than if they franchise tagged him for a third time. Every major recent contract for a QB, other than Carr (and that’s unique because of the Raiders), sees the player get a signing bonus of at least $30M and 1st year new money over $40 million.
So what benefit is there to taking $29M to lock yourself into what’s quickly going to be an undermarket contract when you stand to make at least that much or more next year. Just to put it in perspective in the event Cousins falls off a cliff Brock Osweiler earned $21 million in first year cash and $37 million fully guaranteed as a free agent. So as long as Cousins in passable his full guarantee on a new contract needed to be at least $61 million to even put Cousins in the break even range.
The $72 million injury guarantee also falls into the same trap. That represents about $48 million in newly guaranteed salary. That is well below Luck at $70 million and Wilson at $60 million. Sure he is coming from a higher starting point but the Redskins only have themselves to blame for that. This is actually a more valid number than the full guarantee (only Eli Manning comes close in a new guarantee) but they are not the blow away numbers that Washington is attempting to portray in their letter.
Cousins, because of the position he plays, is in a very unique spot which the Redskins don’t seem to realize. QBs have a much longer life than the average NFL player so losing seasons to the tag doesn’t have the same impact as it would to a wide receiver or defensive end who will likely be removed from his prime after two tags. The injury rates impacting financial earning power are really low as is the loss of power because of a bad season. And if Washington is successful this year it puts Cousins in a scenario to break the bank. More quarterbacks should be following this path.
Washington really needed to take this all into account with any offer they made him, but it seems they failed to do that. The numbers they released simply fall short of making him an offer he cant refuse, which is what they needed to do.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.