According to Dianna Russini of ESPN, Washington has made the decision to start Kirk Cousins over Robert Griffin III in the season opener.
Sources say the plan is not only to start Kirk Cousins tonight in Baltimore, but also week 1 against Miami.
— Dianna Marie Russini (@diannaESPN) August 29, 2015
So of course that now brings up the question of what is next for RGIII so lets take a quick look at his contract to see what options Washington has moving forward.
RGIII has two years remaining on his contract. The 2015 season for $3.7 million is fully guaranteed with no offsets, meaning if they cut him and he signs with another team, Washington gets no financial relief. So the option of a release, no matter how bad the relationship is, would seem remote. Most likely they would look to trade him to a QB desperate team such as the Bills or Jets. In a trade the team wouldtake on the $3.7M in cap obligations for this season so its not a major dent in this years cap.
If the only part of his contract remaining was the $3.7 million it would be easy to move him out of Washington, but his 2016 injury guaranteed salary of $16.155 million complicates matters given Griffin’s fragile history. Washington opted into that season this past offseason which surprised me because in this case the injury concerns seems very valid beyond just normal NFL injury issues. The franchise tag will likely be in the ballpark or $20 million and the transition tag a few million less, so its not as if the option was going to bring the team massive savings had RGIII played well.
Essentially the option becomes a cloud over the head of an organization, adding a financial layer to the decision making process. When they picked it up my feeling was if he played only slightly better than a lesser QB on the roster or the team played poorly and looked out of it by the midway point that they would have to bench him to protect their financial interests. That same issue will come to another team in a trade.
If a trade were to occur my guess is a team would want to negotiate out that option year or do something to protect them in the event of injury. Aldon Smith did something similar with San Francisco when he eliminated his fully guaranteed salary for an incentive laden contract to protect the team from his off the field issues. That paid off for the 49ers who cut Smith after another off the field incident. If RGIII desperately wanted out of Washington he should consider making that same move. But without it I cant picture a team taking on a $16 million risk for player who hasn’t been good since his rookie year in 2012.
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.