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A $20 million yearly average is now the floor for a Cousins deal

Jun 30, 2016, 9:04 AM EDT


The floor keeps getting higher for Kirk Cousins.

In March, when Brock Osweiler jumped from the Broncos to the Texans for a contract that averages $18 million per year, that was generally accepted to be a floor for a Kirk Cousins deal. Osweiler had just seven NFL starts under his belt and his play was just OK. Cousins was coming off of a very good, 16-start season. If Osweiler was worth $18 million per season then Cousins was worth at least that much.

Yesterday the floor shifted.

Andrew Luck signed an extension is worth about $25 million per year. Luck was the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, he has three Pro Bowls on his resume and his teams have been to the playoffs three times and have won three games. He clearly is a cut above Cousins, who has one season as a starter and the Redskins have an 0-1 mark in the playoffs with him at quarterback.

But that doesn’t mean that Luck’s big payday won’t affect Cousins. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. Luck’s deal is a rip tide that will raise the salaries of all competent quarterbacks who are fortunate enough to become free agents.

So what is the minimum that Cousins should expect now? It’s hard to see his agent settling for a dime less than $20 million per year on average. That’s 80 percent of Luck’s take on his extension. Even that number may be low but it seems to work as an absolute rock-bottom minimum.

The per-season average money is only one factor in evaluating the value of a contract. Guaranteed money is perhaps even more important. Luck’s extension contains $84 million in guarantees. If we take the same 80 percent of Luck’s guarantees and apply them to Cousins then the Redskins’ QB should figure on something in the neighborhood of $65 million guaranteed.

The Redskins are surveying the landscape. Right now their stance is that they want to see Cousins produce something similar to his 2015 season again before they commit anything close to Luck-type money to him.

They might look at Luck’s deal, wonder how much it will cost them to lock up Cousins if they wait a year, and push to get a deal done by the July 15 deadline. If they are going to make a serious push, however, they had better be willing to start with an annual average value with a “2” in front of it and a pile of guaranteed money that starts with a “6”. It’s doubtful that Cousins’ camp will entertain anything less.

  1. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Jun 30, 2016 at 10:41 AM

    If they are going to make a serious push, however, they had better be willing to start with an annual average value with a “2” in front of it and a pile of guaranteed money that starts with a “6”.

    Seems to me that increases the likelihood that Cousins pays on the tag. Committing that kind of money to the QB spot makes it harder to retain talent down the road, as I’m betting the Colts will learn.

    So you better be sure the QB you give that contract to is worth it.

    • Shannon Thorpe - Jun 30, 2016 at 2:09 PM

      Exactly….every team pays millions upon millions for a great QB. However to take away from your other players salary you must make damn sure the money you’re willing to put out for him is not accident prone and will perform!!!! Cus your players won’t produce to their potential if they think their getting the shafts. Look what we put out for RGIII AND SEE HOW MUCH WE LOST. I just Thank God Shanahan was smart enough to pick up Kirk Cuz in the 4th round or we’d be screwed right now. Give him something respectable for this season and if he plays anything like he did last season then talk BIG NUMBERS cus if “God Willing” (and I pray) he stays healthy and our line gives him time to do his thing he has the potential to be another Brady or Peyton and I honestly believe that.
      HTTR 4 LIFE!!!

  2. renhoekk2 - Jun 30, 2016 at 10:58 AM

    I wonder who it is in the front office that is behind this game of chicken. Is it Scot, Bruce, Dan, or all three? It’s not working in their favor. The rest of the league keeps adding stacks of money on to the pile of cash they eventually are going to have to give Cousins. He doesn’t have to even improve from last season to earn it. If he goes 4000yds, 25-30TDs 60+% completion and top 10 QBR they still are going to have to pay. What are their alternative options? Don’t get me wrong, I think he will play even better than last year. With everyone having another year in Gruden’s offense, plus the addition of Doctson and Davis, having Jackson and Paul back healthy, the offense should be even better. If the offense picks up where they left off, Cousins will be getting close to Luck type money Which I have to believe is a lot more than they were expecting to pay when they did the franchise tag.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jun 30, 2016 at 4:33 PM

      NUTS! If he is only decent then he is NOT worth any maker value. The only ones missing this point are fans like you ready to sign a huge deal on a QB that had one very good half season

      • John - Jul 1, 2016 at 12:59 PM


        The market sets the price of the contract not over or under enthusiastic fans. Take a look at what other QBs are getting.

        – Osweiler: 4 years/$80 million. Based on what? 7 games and he had a superior defense backing him up.

        – Bradford: 2 years/$35 million. What has he done since being the #1 overall pick several years ago? Nothing but injuries and so so play.

        – Luck: 6 years/$140+ million. He’s been around 4 years but also came off a down/injured season, yet gets crazy money?

        – Kirk: $19.9 million franchise tag. Full season as starter, 2 bad games. 10 really good games. Poor defense and running game and no deep threat for half the season, yet breaks team records, leading the team to a division title and playoffs. Did Bradford or Osweiler do any of that?

        It is what it is. Signing him now is a hedge against inflation. Even if he is off a little from last year, it won’t be his fault. Their playing better teams this year, so his numbers should drop some. Its unlikely he’ll play like in 2014.

        They could always play McCoyor get Robert back after hes cut…LOL…

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 1, 2016 at 1:48 PM

        Is it better to hedge to the inflation cost of an additional 4 million a season than hedge guaranteeing plus 60 million on a unproven commodity now?

        I agree it is unlikely Cousins will play like 2014. However, it will look much worst down the road contractually obligating a player that does the unlikely and then the team finds itself looking for a better option than their 60 plus million dollar QB

        • bangkokben - Jul 2, 2016 at 12:41 PM

          “Is it better to hedge to the inflation cost of an additional 4 million a season than hedge guaranteeing plus 60 million on a unproven commodity now?”

          Yes, unless you want a different QB in 2017 and you know who that QB is. $60 million in guarantees is an additional one to two year commitment from the tag depending on the structure and the kinds of guarantees. It creates more team cap space and the team can get out of it easily after three seasons if Cousins under-performs.

          Suppose Cousins throws for 625 pass attempts as Rich suggested the other day. Let’s look at how the 2014, 2015, and career average would rate in yards, touchdowns and interceptions over the season.

          2014 5,239YRD 31TD 28INT 61.8 Comp%
          2015 4,795 33 13 69.8
          Career 4,734 31 20 65.2

          No matter how you slice it, Cousins would have to play SIGNIFICANTLY WORSE than how he has already played over the life of his career to make such an offer a bad deal for the team.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 2, 2016 at 5:56 PM

          Yes he would have play far worst or continue to demonstrate he can’t be the better defenses. The point is I expect the team will prefer to avoid locking down a QB for plus million that maybend in a season looking for other options and instead anti up 80 to million guaranteed that shows he is the franchise QB

  3. kenlinkins - Jun 30, 2016 at 11:20 AM

    Rich, It seems every time I learn more about things that will effect the Cousins deal I also find more moving parts. In the Luck deal, I see only about $47 million in guaranteed money in the first two years. It seems the Colts have lower the risk on injury by splitting the injury money into two sections (2nd starting in 2019 that would not be paid if injury hits in yeaar1 or2). That is a player concession, so I now wonder just what the player got in return? (More signing bonus, more per year, longer contract). I also saw roster bonus twice a year in 2017 and 2018 at $3 million each that are also most guaranteed to be paid with the amount of dead money for cutting him due to performance. I also see Cap hits of $25 million in 2018 with Cap savings of $5 million, $27.5 million in 2019 with savings of $15 million, and $28.4 in 2020 with $22 million savings (if cut) but if injuried he get $20 million which would reduce the savings? While the Luck deal does have big numbers, the way it is set up allows the Colts to either have him on the field or reduce the guaranteed money. In Lucks case the concern is injury and not performance (which is just the opposite of the Redskins concerns). Again, I am just not sure where the amount jumped too for a Cousins deal, but I agree it jumped into more per year than $19 million! Any ideas on the amount Cousins camp first asked for back in Feb? (seems like that deal would no longer be on the table as I heard it was about $18.5 per year).

    • Rich Tandler - Jun 30, 2016 at 12:30 PM

      The way I look at it the $75 million over the first three years is essentially guaranteed because the Colts would take a big cap hit on the $34 million signing bonus if they cut him to void those guarantees.

      It looks to me like the structure allows better cash flow for Irsay since fully guaranteed money has to be put in escrow.

      Not a huge gamble for Luck to concede that. If they move on from him in two years he would command a pretty hefty contract from another team.

      A D-lineman doesn’t want to make a concession like that. A QB like Luck can.

      • kenlinkins - Jun 30, 2016 at 1:04 PM

        See there: Another moving part. I didn’t know that all fully guaranteed money had to go into escrow. Every day I learn what I don’t know, I am just not sure it is making me any smarter…..

  4. John - Jun 30, 2016 at 1:07 PM

    Rich laid it pretty well. The guaranteed money will be in the 40-45% range. Total will probably be 5 years $100 mill, $40 – $45 much million guaranteed. Anyone thinking the Skins should ride the tag out because of sample size needs to have their head examined. Kirk played a full season in a standard offense unlike Robert in the pistol/read option attack or Files in Chip Kelly’s gimmick hurry up and run 50 plays before halftime. Robert and Files were exposed once films figured out how to defend those offenses. Kirk had 2 bad games. Reward the guy for his efforts.

    • 21indiscriminateThoughts - Jun 30, 2016 at 11:54 PM

      Feel like you just quoted the exact numbers from Cooley & Kevin on ESPN 980…

      • John - Jul 1, 2016 at 7:03 AM

        Yes. I’d say he has a better vantage point on things based on his knowledge of the situation and his relationship with Kirk. He also has the insight of Schefter and that financial advisor to put it all together.

  5. blazerguy234 - Jun 30, 2016 at 2:06 PM

    Here is what makes no sense in how the team is viewing Kurt, and his contract…who would they find to replace him? When Griffin was here they did have an alternative…now? They have zero chance of getting another QB in the next 3-4 years who can play at Cousin`s level. With a healthy Jackson, and what Dockson will add over time,
    his numbers might be better than last year. Not doing the deal prior to Luck signing..will cost them…and there, again, was no alternate to Cousins.

    • Rich Tandler - Jun 30, 2016 at 2:38 PM

      His name is Kirk.

      And the first-round pick is Doctson.

      Not much credibility in your points if you can’t get the names right.

  6. smotion55 - Jun 30, 2016 at 2:42 PM

    Would they be dumb enough to play McCoy next year and hope the Rookie catches on and will be good enough for 2018. If he does not get signed by July 15 is this a Snyder move or what. I am disappointed that this was not done 2 even 3 months ago, and thought they could have got him in the beginning for 18.5 and add a million each year for 4 years. Now it is out of control.

    • bangkokben - Jun 30, 2016 at 6:15 PM

      Kirk and his agent were waiting for this shoe to drop. Cousins could only benefit by waiting. The tag was THIRTY TIMES what he made last year. In other words, Cousins will be paid — if no deal is done — for this season the same amount as i f he played 30 seasons at last year’s salary. HE CAN AFFORD to wait. Therefore, the Redskins have to pay the market. The question is whether they want to pay at 2016 market prices or 2017 market prices. The market for competent QBs continues to climb.

  7. Jack Bond - Jun 30, 2016 at 4:03 PM

    Sounds like Kirk Cousins agent wrote this article

  8. redskinsnameisheretostay - Jun 30, 2016 at 4:28 PM

    The logical outcome is to let Cousins pay out his franchise tag for the season. There are far too many average Quarterbacks making well over their output. The team has laid a golden goose on Cousins lap. He has all the weapons to make him look elite. This season is the time for him to prove. I actually love how he has handled his role as a starter. If he has a mid-level performance then move on but if he proved he is a real franchise QB then he’ll be one of the highest paid players in the league. Let the season determine his value and not the damn market

    • bangkokben - Jun 30, 2016 at 7:33 PM

      Logical if you like paying 20% more per year for a QB. You can’t separate the season from the market.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 1, 2016 at 7:40 AM

        Paying a proven commodity 20% more later is not what straps a team, but rushing to sign a QB to a long term deal just to save that 20% can be far more damaging in the long run to the franchise if that player only has a average or worst performance.

        You separate from the market by choosing not to make a risky signing on a player now. This appears to be what that franchise has decided to do with Cousins which is the smart choice to make. Nobody is going to care about paying Cousins more later if he shows he is the real deal.

        • bangkokben - Jul 1, 2016 at 8:10 AM

          “This appears to be what that franchise has decided…” Premature there. Any assessment can and should wait until 4:01 PM, July 15. None of the franchise tagged players have been signed — except Norman and his special circumstances. Appearances mean nothing since these deals notoriously don’t get done until the deadline.

          “Nobody is going to care about paying Cousins more later if he shows he is the real deal.” Again, not true. Your whole argument has been about “strapping a team” connecting to performance. Doesn’t that go both ways? Paying Cousins $18M this year instead of $20M and $20M next year instead of $24M does matter. Ask Baltimore, Dallas, or New Orleans.

        • Rich Tandler - Jul 1, 2016 at 9:07 AM

          Fact: An average, competent starting NFL quarterback is going to get paid $20 million per season. The market is what it is. Supply and demand and a skyrocketing salary cap.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 1, 2016 at 1:37 PM

          It was premature to assume he would have been signed months ago which is what you stated. I stated “appears” not “won’t” based on the fact he is not currently signed to a long term deal and many have reported it is unlikely to get done at this point.

          If the Redskins have found their franchise QB, the additional cost of waiting to sign Cousins to a long term deal would barely become a footnote. However, signing him to now with a large guaranteed salary that spills over for many seasons would have far more serious ramifications if Cousins’ performance tumbles on the field.

          Also, if the market already dictates average at 20 million for NFL WBs then it just further reinforces the benefit of paying Cousins the current cap value for the season. Finally, With the salary cap possibly going up another 11 million next season, that addional cost you worry so much about will be further mitigated.

          There is nothing you can that justifies guaranteeing plus 65 million to sign Cousins now.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 1, 2016 at 1:40 PM

          Correction: Franchise tag value not cap value

  9. bangkokben - Jun 30, 2016 at 6:31 PM

    Rich, you nailed it.

  10. lorcanbonda - Jun 30, 2016 at 10:26 PM

    First — I’m sure Kirk’s agent is salivating, but I don’t think Kirk cares as much as everyone thinks. He’s got $20 million in the bank right now. Last year, he could not have imagined that. Everything from here on out is gravy.

    I think Kirk would be happy with a fair commitment, but his agent is going to lock in as much as he can get. I honestly thought Osweiler/Tannehill/the Eagles third string QB (Bradford, I think) — set the market. Kirk was and still is looking at 20-22 million per year with 50-60 guaranteed.

    The only way that changes is if the Redskins wait out the year and Kirk has incredible statistics. With this team, that seems likely if he is healthy. Scott has to figure out how to structure it to avoid Norman’s big bump next year.

    Next year, the only one of note he has to worry about is Breeland (although Long, Moses, Murphy, and Grant are coming due too.) Plus, we will likely lose at least one, if not two big WR contracts. Archives

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