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Skins Stats Playing GM: Making Kirk Cousins the Highest Paid Player in the NFL - Part 2

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With the deadline to reach a long-term deal fast approaching, Skins Stats makes one last plea for the Redskins to lock up their star signal caller, Kirk Cousins

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins only have 72 hours left to sign Kirk Cousins to a long-term contract, and according to top experts, John Keim and Ian Rappaport, it seems highly unlikely that a deal will be reached in time.

That leads me to believe that the front office is likely operating under the assumption that either Cousins is not worth the money or that committing to a deal of this size would hamstring their ability to keep their top players and attract new talent in free agency.

I already disproved the former back in February, when I gave you ten reasons why Kirk Cousins is worth the money and showed you what a record-breaking deal with him might look like. Today, I will proceed to do the same with the latter, as we wrap up the trilogy of the 2017 Kirk Cousins contract saga with a look at how an even more expensive contract would affect the rest of the roster.

To accomplish this task I've created a mock 2018 and 2019 offseason to give us an idea of what the team's roster and salary cap structure might look like if Cousins were to sign a new pact with the Redskins.

The team is currently $6.5M under the 2017 salary cap, and it is highly likely that their entire opening day roster is already under contract, so our work there is already done.

This exercise will show you how the Redskins can both sign Kirk Cousins and put out a competitive product on the field for the next three seasons.

The first step is to take one last crack at building a new contract for Captain Kirk.

Make Him An Offer He Can't Refuse

Once the team's biggest deal is in place, we'll have a better idea of how much cap space they'll have at their disposal to sign other players. I used the following three baselines for Cousins' contract:

1. The deal will include over $58M in fully guaranteed money. The Redskins have set that as a baseline themselves by franchising Cousins this season ($23.9M) and publicly discussing that they would seriously consider using a third tag ($34.5M) on him next year ($23.9M + $34.5M =  $58.4M).

2. It will break all of the records set by the recent contracts given to Andrew Luck and Derek Carr. All records held by defensive players must also be topped (namely Von Miller and Ndamukong Suh). Basically, I'm trying to smash every NFL contract record possible, something I thought I could've done better the first time around.

3. Every major aspect of this new deal will match or surpass the figures included in the suggested contract proposed by former agent and current CBS Sports writer Joel Corry.

Proposed Kirk Cousins Contract Breakdown (Fully GTD in Bold)
Year Age Salary GTD SB DEPR Cash Total Cap Dead Savings
2017 29 $14M $14M $6.4M $32M $20.4M $62M (41.6M)
2018 30 $16M $16M $6.4M $62M $22.4M $41.6M ($19.2M)
2020 31 $19M $19M $6.4M $81M $25.4M $19.2M $6.2M
2021 32 $23M $9M $6.4M $104M $29.4M $12.8M $16.6M
2022 33 $26M $6.4M $130M $32.4M $6.4M $26M
Proposed Kirk Cousins Contract Totals & NFL All-Time Rankings
Category Total AAV Total GTD Full GTD Bonus Yr-1 Cash Yr-2 Cash Yr-3 Cash
Values $130M $26M $90M $62M $32M $32M $62M $81M
Rankings 1st 1st 1st 1st t-2nd 1st 1st 1st

Here are a few more details about the contract:

  • As you can see in the bottom row of the table above, this hypothetical pact would break virtually every contract record in NFL history.
  • The only mark that would not be broken is Joe Flacco's insanely high $40M signing bonus. I opted to match Andrew Lucks $32M bonus and settle for a second place tie instead. I really don't think players care as much about signing bonuses as they do about fully guaranteed money in their contracts. It just so happens that signing bonuses typically make up a large portion of those guaranteed dollars.
  • $18M of his bonus would be paid out in 2017, with the other $14M coming in 2018. This is not an uncommon practice with large signing bonuses.
  • Cousins' salaries in both 2017 and 2018 would be fully guaranteed at signing. All of his 2019 salary and $9M of his 2020 salary would become fully guaranteed on the 5th day of those league years.
  • This contract would match the total and average value that Joel Corry proposed, and beat it in guaranteed money, fully guaranteed money, signing bonus and cash payouts in years 1 and 2. This deal only falls short of Corry's when it comes to the payouts in years 3 and 4 and to the fact that all of the guarantees wouldn't be received until the fourth year instead of the third.
  • If the Redskins weren't getting what they bargained for from Cousins, they could rather easily get out of this deal after three years. They would have to take dead cap hits of just under $6.5M in both 2020 and 2021, but they'd also realize a net savings of over $42M in the process.

This contract would represent the fair market value that Cousins and his agent have been asking for, but would it be enough for him to forget all of the team's low-ball offers up to this point and actually sign? Ian Rappaport, one of the same people who predicted that a deal wouldn't happen, seems to think so.

"Now, is Cousins frustrated by why he doesn't already have a long-term extension? I'm sure he is. I would be, too. But I don't think any of that matters as much as strictly the numbers, because if you get a long-term contract, all of that fades away very, very quickly, and we've seen it over and over and over in the NFL."

When it comes down to it, I believe that Kirk Cousins would, in fact, sign on the dotted line and accept this deal.

Straight Cash, Homey

We've solved the biggest piece of the puzzle by locking up Kirk Cousins, but there is still work to be done in our mock GM exercise (sadly a mock general manager is the only kind of GM they have at this point). We need to create hypothetical contracts for each of the other major players on the team that are slated to hit free agency, which we'll define as over $3M APY, that the team will hand out in 2018 and 2019.

The general framework of all of those deals can be seen in the table below. When you're reading the details and explanations for these purely hypothetical contracts, I ask that you please take a few facts under consideration.

First, the money that these players received here will be different from what they will get in real life. I only had a few days to come up with all of this and I am much more adept at dealing with on-field statistics and athleticism metrics than I am with contracts. I have learned a lot more about NFL contracts this year, but, at the same time I am no Eric Schaffer.

Also, this article is not about debating who the team should and should not sign in addition to Kirk Cousins. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and what you see here is just an example of one way. What this piece is about, is proving that giving a record-breaking deal to Cousins would not cripple the Washington Redskins ability to retain their own players and add new talent to the roster. Don't get too hung up on the smaller surrounding details.

Proposed 2018 & 2019 Redskins Free Agent Contracts
Player Years Total Value AAV GTD Full GTD All Cap Hits
Kirk Cousins 5 (2017-2021) $130M $26M $90M $62M $20.4M, $22.4M, $25.4M, $29.4M, $32.4M
2018 UFA WR 4 (2018-2021) $30M $7.5M $20M $15M $5M, $6.5M, $8.5M, $10M
Zach Brown 4 (2018-2021) $25M $6.25M $16M $13M $4M, $5M, $7M, $9M
Spencer Long 4 (2018-2021) $20M $5M $9M $9M $3.5M, $4.5M, $5.5M, $6.5M
Chris Thompson 3 (2018-2020) $12.5M $4.17M $6M $6M $2.7M, $4.2M, $5.7M
Dustin Hopkins 3 (2018-2020) $9M $3M $5M $5M $2M, $3M, $4M
Brandon Scherff 5 (2019-2023) $75M $15M $40M $34M $9M, $13M, $16M, $18M, $19M
Preston Smith 5 (2019-2023) $75M $15M $40M $30M $8M, $11M, $15.5M, $18M, $22.5M
Jamison Crowder 5 (2019-2023) $65M $13M $28M $22M $7.4M, $10.4, $12.4M, $16.4M, $18.4M
Quinton Dunbar 4 (2019-2022) $28M $7M $12M $12M $4M, $5.5M, $7.8M, $10.8M
2019 UFA ILB 4 (2019-2022) $24M $6M $16M $11.5M $3M, $4.5M, $7M, $9.5M

  • The major aspects of these contracts were inspired by the deals already given to comparable players in 2016 and 2017. Salary cap inflation was also taken into account.
  • None of these proposed pacts are extensions. The way that extensions are reported and explained in the media is not as straightforward as it is with brand new deals. Extending someone before their contract is up could either save the team money or cost them more, depending on the player in question. I've excluded them here to keep things more simple.
  • My aim was to retain players that are already on the roster, as opposed to bringing in free agents from other organizations. Nine of these eleven players are currently Washington Redskins.
  • Cousins and Zach Brown are the only two on this list that would be entering their age 29 seasons at the time that their new deals were signed. Every other one of these players would be 28 or younger at the end of their first year under these agreements. The average and median age of this group would also be 28. This does not include the two outside free agents that were brought in.
  • I threw a ton of money at Brandon Scherff, Jamison Crowder and Preston Smith. In fact, these deals would currently rank in the top ten at their respective positions (Scherff's would be the biggest ever for a guard). This may seem crazy to some, but you need to consider that I am projecting how good they are going to be in 2019 and not how good they are right now. The inflation of the cap and the deals that will likely be given to similar players between now and 2019 were also major factors in paying this trio so much money.

Show Me the Money!

With all of the free agents signed, we can now look at how the team around Cousins might look in 2018 and 2019. But before we do I need to briefly explain a few aspects of how the cap hits for all of the other players were determined.

All of the cap numbers for players already under contract were pulled from either Over the Cap or Spotrac.

The cap hits for restricted free agent tenders were estimated by increasing the price of each type of tender by the average growth rate that they have experienced over the past several years.

For the draft, the team was given the 17th pick in each round in both 2018 and 2019. This makes sense because it is the same pick that the Redskins had in 2017 and it's right in the middle of each round (not including compensatory selections). The cap hits for these picks were also estimated using historical growth rates.

Minimum contract figures were derived from the schedule listed in this link. None of these deals exceed $1.1M.

You may also notice that I have six draft picks making the team every year. That may seem generous, but consider that you could easily sub those picks out for undrafted free agents or young veterans that would actually count less against the cap. The same thing goes for draft picks that are released, signed to the practice squad and eventually called up to the active roster.

Now let's get to the main course and see how this team might look over the next few years if Cousins is signed to a LTD.

2018-2019 Redskins Mock Personnel Moves & Cap Hits (OFFENSE)
Position Player 2018 Cap Hit 2019 Cap Hit
QB Kirk Cousins $ 22,400,000 $ 25,400,000
QB Nate Sudfeld $ 664,334 $ 754,334
QB 2018 6th-Rd Pick $ 526,487 $ 615,510
RB Samaje Perine $ 719,947 $ 809,947
RB Rob Kelley $ 631,000 $ 3,195,995
RB Chris Thompson $ 2,666,667 $ 4,166,667
RB Keith Marshall $ 571,388 $ 736,388
TE Jordan Reed $ 10,300,000 $ 9,721,000
TE Vernon Davis $ 5,333,333
TE Jeremy Sprinkle $ 624,129 $ 714,129
TE 2019 4th-Rd Pick $ 709,521
WR Jamison Crowder $ 841,406 $ 7,400,000
WR Josh Doctson $ 2,740,812 $ 3,197,614
WR Maurice Harris $ 630,000 $ 3,195,995
WR Robert Davis $ 589,558 $ 679,558
WR 2018 3d-Rd Pick $ 711,629 $ 844,152
WR 2018 UFA $ 5,000,000 $ 6,500,000
OT Trent Williams $ 13,950,000 $ 14,950,000
OT Morgan Moses $ 5,400,000 $ 6,900,000
OT Ty Nsekhe $ 2,962,466
OT Vinston Painter $ 1,938,741
OT 2019 2nd-Rd Pick $ 1,129,228
OT 2019 6th-Rd Pick $ 552,811
OG Brandon Scherff $ 6,750,430 $ 9,000,000
OG Arie Kouadijo $ 835,418
OG Chase Roullier $ 591,795 $ 681,795
OG 2019 UFA $ 1,000,000
OC Spencer Long $ 3,500,000 $ 4,500,000
OC 2018 5th-Rd Pick $ 552,611 $ 652,678
Departures Terrelle Pryor Vernon Davis
Niles Paul Ty Nsekhe
Derek Carrier Vinston Painter
Colt McCoy Arie Kouadijo

  • The only projected offensive starter that would walk in this scenario is Terrelle Pryor. I personally think that Pryor has monster upside, but he'll be going into his age 29 season in 2018; and if the rumors are true, he wants to be paid in excess of $11M per year on his next contract. That's simply too much for the Redskins if they want to keep Crowder and some of their defensive free agents around long term.
  • A lot of this decision will depend on how Josh Doctson performs. I, for one, have faith in Doctson, which is a big part of the reason that I chose to move on from Pryor. However, even with that being said, I also took out a pretty hefty insurance policy at the position by immediately using a third round pick on a receiver and signing a mid-level free agent (think Mohamed Sanu, Kenny Britt or Terrance Williams).
  • I love Vernon Davis. He tore it up at the University of Maryland when I was there, he is one of the greatest athletes in NFL history and he was one of the very best backup tight ends in the NFL last season. But Father Time is undefeated, so I had no qualms with saving $5M by parting ways with him before he entered his age 35 season in 2019.
  • I penciled in Chase Roullier as the starting right guard in 2019. I like his potential. What I don't particularly care for is the play that I have seen from Arie Kouandijo so far. I let him find employment elsewhere in 2019.
  • I spread the love by using 6 of my 12 draft picks on offense. However, I didn't really expend a ton of draft capital on this side of the ball. Only 2 of my 6 picks in the first three rounds were used to help this already supremely talented offensive unit.

2018-2019 Redskins Mock Personnel Moves & Cap Hits (DEFENSE)
Position Player 2018 Cap Hit 2019 Cap Hit
DE Jonathan Allen $ 2,635,591 $ 3,162,709
DE Anthony Lanier $ 632,668 $ 3,195,995
DE Terrell McClain $ 4,750,000 $ 5,750,000
DE 2018 UFA $ 1,100,000
DE 2019 UFA $ 1,100,000
DT Stacy McGee $ 4,800,000 $ 4,800,000
DT Matt Ioannidis $ 630,000 $ 720,000
DT 2018 2nd-Rd Pick $ 1,045,581 $ 1,306,977
OLB Ryan Kerrigan $ 12,450,000 $ 13,950,000
OLB Preston Smith $ 1,838,890 $ 8,000,000
OLB 2018 1st-Rd Pick $ 2,319,320 $ 2,899,150
OLB 2019 5th-Rd Pick $ 574,716
OLB 2018 UFA $ 2,000,000
ILB Zach Brown $ 4,000,000 $ 5,000,000
ILB Ryan Anderson $ 1,210,164 $ 1,452,197
ILB Martrell Spaight $ 764,487
ILB 2018 4th-Rd Pick $ 663,104 $ 789,238
ILB 2019 UFA $ 3,000,000
CB Josh Norman $ 17,000,000
CB Fabian Moreau $ 794,348 $ 890,348
CB Kendall Fuller $ 827,106 $ 929,606
CB Quinton Dunbar $ 1,938,741 $ 4,000,000
CB Joshua Holsey $ 575,239 $ 665,239
CB 2019 1st-Rd Pick $ 2,551,252
CB 2018 UFA $ 1,100,000
CB 2019 UFA $ 2,500,000
S D.J. Swearinger $ 4,333,333 $ 5,833,334
S Su'a Cravens $ 1,208,447 $ 1,409,855
S Deshazor Everett $ 2,962,466
S Montae Nicholson $ 709,723 $ 799,723
S 2019 3rd-Rd Pick $ 754,327
Departures Ziggy Hood Martrell Spaight
Will Compton Josh Norman
Mason Foster Deshazor Everett
Trent Murphy
Junior Galette
Bashaud Breeland
DeAngelo Hall
Will Blackmon

  • Let's go ahead and get the Josh Norman explanation out the way. I have him being released in 2019. That move would save over $21M combined between 2019 and 2020. Most importantly, Norman will turn 32 that year. Cornerbacks very rarely age well, even the good ones. Their production particularly tends to fall off a cliff right around this age too. If you want examples, then look no further than two of the most recently dubbed "shutdown corners" in NFL history, Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis. The play of both corners plummeted at or around when they turned 31.

  • But never fear, just like at wide receiver, I ponied up draft capital to make up for the loss. This time I upped the ante by using a first rounder on a cornerback in 2019. Take notice of the fact that both first round picks have been used on defense.

  • I used the 2018 first-round pick on a pass rusher for several reasons. First, I think that a better player could be acquired there than what the Redskins currently have in Trent Murphy and Junior Galette, both of whom I let walk in free agency. I believe that a truly dominant defense must feature a great pass rushing unit. Finally, I can't in good conscience include Ryan Anderson as an OLB after I found out that he is one of the worst athletes in the NFL.

  • Instead I moved Anderson over to inside linebacker, where he could be utilized as a two-down thumper. Zach Brown was retained to compliment Anderson's abilities and to make up for the losses of Will Compton and Mason Foster. Having the money to sign Brown was also a factor in letting Terrelle Pryor move on.

  • I know there are a lot of departures on this side of the ball, but when you add it all up only three starters were let go in this two-year span. We already discussed Norman, so let's talk about the other two. I like Will Compton, and I appreciate what he has done. However, I just don't think he's a special player, and I don't see him getting any better as he nears 30 years old. I think Breeland is underrated; but I don't believe he wants to be here and the team has invested multiple draft picks on corners in the last two years, whom should be able to adequately replace him.

2018-2019 Redskins Mock Personnel Moves & Cap Hits (ST & EXTRA)
Position Player/Category 2018 Cap Hit 2019 Cap Hit
P Tress Way $ 1,750,000 $ 1,850,000
K Dustin Hopkins $ 2,000,000 $ 3,000,000
LS Nick Sundberg $ 1,067,500 $ 1,082,500
In-Season UFAs $ 4,500,000 $ 4,500,000
Dead Cap $ 750,000 $ 4,333,334

  • By locking up Dustin Hopkins you keep this above average special teams unit together for just about $5M a year. Not bad.
  • The $4.33M dead cap charge in 2019 comes from releasing Josh Norman ($3M) and Vernon Davis (1.33M).and/
  • I allocated $4.5M to use on in-season free agents or traded players. That figure is in line with what most experts suggest.

2018-2019 Redskins Mock Cap Hits (TOTALS)
Category 2018 2019
Salary Cap Space $ 183,400,000 $ 199,611,141
Total Cap Hit $ 173,788,859 $ 198,807,822
Cap Space Left $ 9,611,141 $ 803,319

  • The $183.4M cap figure was derived by adding Over the Cap's estimated 2018 cap of $178M to the 2017 savings from Cousins' lowered cap hit ($23.9M - 20.4M = $3.5M) and the 2017 cap not spent on in-season additions ($6.5M - $4.5M = $1.9M).
  • All four of the players that were actually released and not just free agents, were over 30 years old at the time they were let go.
  • Even with Cousins massive new contract included, I was able to retain 18 of the team's 22 starters from 2017 (82%) for all of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. If you look at starter seasons out of 44 (22 starters X 2 seasons), then you're talking about an 84% retention rate (37 of 44). I'll take that kind of continuity any day.
  • Yes, I did look at the 2020 season, as well (I know, I have a problem). I did not share it here, because looking that far ahead is too ludicrous for even me to write about. I'll stop short of that and just let you know that the Redskins would not be looking at any kind of salary cap hell in that season as long as they continue to competently select players in the draft.

The Price It Is a Risin'

This exercise should prove that the Washington Redskins could easily sign Kirk Cousins to the kind of deal that he is looking for and still field a very talented and competitive team for at least the next three seasons.

However, that might not be the case if Cousins is not inked to a long-term deal in the next couple of days. If he is not signed now, then the price to retain him later will only continue to rise for multiple reasons: additional tags, new record-breaking quarterback contracts, a growing resentment between Cousins and the front office and a free market that includes QB-needy teams with more cap space than the Redskins.

It seems like the Washington brass doesn't want to pay Cousins market value right now, even though we have shown here that they clearly have the ability to make that happen while still keeping the core of the team together. If they don't act now, they simply might not even be able to hold onto him past this season. At least not without being forced to part ways with multiple meaningful contributors in the process.

The Redskins have the opportunity to have their cake and eat it too, but they must act now and sign Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal by Monday afternoon if they want to do so.

*All statistics are courtesy of CBS Sports, ESPN, Pro Football Reference, Over the Cap and Spotrac*