- For about nine years now I have been delivering a weekly Sixpack of the Mondays (occasionally on Tuesday), and boy have I been wrong over that period of time. There’s no need to deliver a litany of the bad calls I have made, as I am reminded plenty, though I seldom do the same...which reminds me to ask ih8dallas, “How is John Beck doing?” Haha...well, on the Kirk Cousins matter, I have been banging a steady drum for the last two years, and it has been mostly on beat. For the last year and a half on The Audible, you have heard Kevin and I represent the “Pay the man” standpoint, while Tim has dutifully represented the “Make him play for it” side of the coin. There are other positions to have taken over the last couple years of course, but for the most part, it has been all about “To sign or not to sign.” We have attacked it—for the most part over the last two years—from the angle that the Redskins had the opportunity (or opportunities) to offer a deal that would have gotten the job done. I argued in both 2015 and 2016 that at then-market levels, the Redskins would be getting the kind of steal they had never gotten before from a salary cap perspective. I think that was very true and though I disagreed with the team’s decision to make Kirk play for the big bucks, I don’t think the decision was a fatal one. Though it takes two to tango (and Kirk played a part in this long dance), I very much believe that the situation we find ourselves in today has been made by the team. Traditionally, this has been a very, very bad thing. I think we could have avoided this situation entirely, but to me, the truth is that this situation is not quite as bad as some of our other homemade disasters.
- Thanks to StephenHart for his summary of my take on the current setup: a) Redskins can’t gain a ton of salary cap space right this second by getting a long-term deal done; b) $24 million is a reasonable annual figure for a franchise passer; c) when the team is on the hook for $34 million next year, there will be a much more urgent need to get a deal done because there will be serious salary cap savings to gain. Kirk wears a ton of injury risk in 2017 and the Redskins wear his “signability” risk in 2018 (the risk that Kirk would just play on the $34 million tag instead of signing long-term deal). I don’t think the Redskins have overpaid for a quarterback...yet. This is why I believe the team has not offered him the kind of money we would expect to see on a long-term deal—the team just figures it is already paying market, so no need to offer more. I don’t think the franchise tags have crippled our ability to build a core of young talent...yet. Clearly, the team is getting younger and will boast its youngest starting lineup in years this season.
- Much has been made about whether or not “Kirk wants to be here.” I find this line of reasoning to be problematic on just about every level. First and foremost, I don’t believe that the Redskins have EVER offered him the kind of contract that has caused Kirk to really answer that question (see above). Kirk and his agent know that the tag pays him pretty much right where the market suggests he should be paid. It can be a dicey venture to bet on staying healthy in the modern NFL, but Kirk doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who is going to need more than $45 million to secure his financial future. Except for the lack of a long-term deal that would signify a true marriage between the team and the player, I think that Kirk is happy to be paid what he is being paid, and I think the Redskins are getting what they are paying for—again, not a terrible setup. If you are out there suggesting that Kirk should want to be here so badly that he should be willing to grant a hometown discount or take less than what he —and his union—believe he is worth, then you simply haven’t been paying attention to the world of sports. I really hate the argument that Kirk has been a whiner or some kind of prima donna. Really? Again, turning down below-market deals while demanding to be respected as an integral player in this league is hardly acting like an entitled brat. Kirk is under no obligation to play the role of an upstart mid-round draft pick that is playing over his own head and needs to get on his knees and be thankful for any offer thrown his way. I would argue that the team IS obligated to look at Kirk and see the player that has re-written single-season franchise passing records and stands as one of the all-time most accurate passers in NFL history. At 65.9%, Kirk ranks THIRD all-time, and trails first-place Drew Brees by a 0.7% (courtesy of Pro Football Reference! Given that the Redskins have built this offense around Kirk Cousins and behind a talented and sturdy offensive line, why would he be so eager to leave and start over somewhere else? Does he really seem like the kind of individual that would put pettiness above his honest assessment of the current state of the Redskins?
- Of course Washington is the best place for Kirk Cousins. Of course that should remain true through the 2017 season and into the future. People too easily forget that Jay Gruden came into town and set the house on fire by benching Robert Griffin III in favor of giving Kirk his shot. Further, after an early interception-laden effort by Kirk, Jay continued to believe enough in what he saw in Cousins to see him as the quarterback of our future. These two men are bound to each other in Washington, and their relationship could really blossom further this season in the absence of Sean McVay. It also seems evident that Kirk has won over the locker room in his time here, similar to what he has done at every level he has played. It really is his team. From the inside, it would seem that Kirk has everything he could ask for in terms of support. This contract stuff is strictly business-related and we all need to remember something on this point: the kind of money involved here would be record-setting. Kirk’s next contract will likely make him one of the highest-paid players in the league—if not THE highest-paid player. That means the NFLPA is likely involved to some degree. That means every other owner in the league has an interest in the matter. My point is that this dance is being highly scrutinized and all the moves are being made with as much deliberation as possible. Kirk holds most of the cards, and the Redskins have been burned by past record-setting deals. That has landed us here.
- I think the Redskins were wrong not to have gotten a market deal done back in 2015. Who cares? I think Kirk was right in turning down below-market deals since. Who cares? There is still plenty of opportunity left for both sides to have a long and happy—and rich—coexistence. Kirk can see the young talent being brought in to shore up the problem areas on defense. Kirk can see that the Redskins have locked down core pieces of the locker room for the immediate future. When it is time to get past this year-to-year crap (in approximately a year), the Redskins will know that the salary cap can ALWAYS fit a franchise passer under it, and they will remember the long and mostly terrible list of names that have preceded Kirk at the quarterback spot since Dan Snyder took over. What’s more, they will have kicked the contract can far enough down the street to have milked a career’s worth of solid play from a player that THEY DRAFTED (assuming they ink that extension in next season)!! I know, I know...crazy.
- Back to StephanHart’s worry though...what if we get here next year and still can’t get a deal done? I have been saying all along that the team will tag him a third time and that the Redskins will figure out the way to get Kirk locked up at that point. This is all predicated on the notion that Kirk is an above-average quarterback...at worst. If it is true that he is worth tagging next year for the right to exclusive negotiations with the Redskins, than he will be a player another team will be interested in dealing for—a worst-case scenario in my opinion. People seem to think the Redskins will get “stuck” paying him $34 million. Given the amount of players on one-year deals right now, I would bet that Kirk understands well how his decision would shape the team next season—the undermanned team he would be obligated to play for in this case. It already sounds like progress has been made between the Redskins and Cousins...on next year’s deal. And so I wish you all a very happy franchise tag deadline anniversary! I wish you all a very happy year until our next anniversary. On that note, I have very good news: the Redskins have agreed to terms with their franchise quarterback for the upcoming season.
It’s official: Kirk Cousins will be the quarterback for the 2017 Washington Redskins!