It always happens, but this one isn’t as farfetched as most of the others.
Everytime a big name player hits the market or is rumored to be close to hitting it, said player is indubitably linked to the Dallas Cowboys. It rarely fails, primarily because just the word Cowboys drives up ratings and clicks. That’s the case with the word this week that the Washington Redskins have named Kirk Cousins as their starter for the 2015 season, putting Robert Griffin on the bench. Now, every article about Griffin’s future lists the Cowboys as a possible destination.
This one might make more sense, fit wise, than the others though.
What doesn’t make more sense is the financial situation surrounding Griffin; how Washington probably locked itself out of receiving any compensation for a player they sacrificed plenty to obtain. There is rampant speculation that with a cutdown to 53 players due this Saturday, that Washington will look to move Griffin for low-round draft compensation. This after trading two additional first round picks and two second round picks to move up in the 2012 draft to secure his services. If the club can’t find a taker, they might consider cutting him. At least, this is how the rumors see the situation.
Earlier this offseason, Washington enacted the fifth-year option on Robert Griffin, locking in a player that had only played in 35 of a possible 48 games in his first three years despite starting from Day One. The Cowboys eschewed using their option on the sixth pick of that same 2012 draft, Morris Claiborne. For Griffin, the option kept him in tow at just over $16 million for 2016. Griffin’s $3.27 million salary for 2015 was guaranteed as all drafted rookie deals are.
The option for 2016 is not fully guaranteed, so that provides plenty of leeway for most NFL teams. However, the option does contain an injury guarantee. Normally, the contract would not become fully guaranteed until the fifth day of the new league year (for 2016, around March 8th). What the injury guarantee does, is says that if said player is unable to play due to injury, then the money locks in.
For a player with a injury history such as Robert Griffin, this has to be a very serious concern for any team interested in acquiring him. What team would want to run the risk of bringing him in, for any purpose other than starting quarterback in 2015, with the risk that his fragile body (in football terms) could lock them into a $16 million investment next year with no returns? It doesn’t make much financial football sense.
Meanwhile, the 2015 guaranteed salary has no offsets, which means that if Washington were to outright release him over the next few days, a real possibility because things are plain ugly in the nation’s capital, they would have to pay the full guaranteed amount for 2015. Another team would possibly be able to pick up Griffin for league minimum salary in 2015, because he’s still going to make $3.2 million from Washington no matter what else transpires.
That makes cutting him unlikely, and with the $16m+ guaranteed should he wreck his ACL or ankle running your scout team, it doesn’t make much sense for a team to take on that financial risk. The potential issue on him making his way to Dallas is that he would likely have to be cut, to protect the team from putting a $16m hit on next year’s salary cap.
There remains a possibility that a team would ask to renegotiate Griffin’s contract before agreeing to a trade, but how smart would that be on Griffin’s behalf? It all depends on how much faith he has in himself to avoid injury while making enough impact to persuade a team to invest long-term in him. Does it make any sense for that to happen in Dallas? Not on Griffin’s side.
The former Baylor star has seen a swift fall from grace due to injuries and inability to adjust to life as a pocket passer. In 2012, when he led a late-season push that propelled the Redskins into the playoffs, Griffin was the toast of the league. His blazing speed and the resurgence of the read-option offense was so dynamic, it led Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to say the following last season:
"Well, I'm a fan of RGIII," Jones said. "Right on this field two years ago, or maybe it was three seasons ago*, he put on a show and had a game that just floored me. And they won, and they won in large part because of his play at quarterback. I thought 'my goodness, and we're going to have to be playing this guy for years and years.' And so he's got it. "Once you see a player do it, especially if you see him do it two or three times, you know he can do it. And of course he's a driven young man. I'm a big admirer of RGIII."
The thing that makes this situation even more interesting to some is the fact that the Cowboys have failed to identify a prospect to replace Tony Romo as the heir apparent at quarterback. Romo enters this season 35 years old and none of the backup quarterbacks resemble someone that will be able to take the reins in couple years.
Dallas is currently backing up Romo with Brandon Weeden, another former 2012 first rounder that made his way out of Cleveland after just two seasons. Neither Dustin Vaughan nor Jameil Showers has used the preseason time to convince anyone they are a better option than Weeden to hold the clipboard behind Romo.
Could Griffin? Not if you believe either of the coaching staffs that have been charged with making him a bonafide pocket-aware quarterback. The scuttlebutt around DC has always been that it was Griffin’s camp who insisted that he was ready to move beyond read-option quarterbacking after his rookie season. That he has always been intimidated by Kirk Cousins grasp of pocket quarterbacking concepts and had a desire to prove he was more than just an athlete. Where the blame lies in the failure for that to mature is up for endless debate, with everyone from Griffin himself, to the Shanahan family that spent multiple years undermining him on and off the record to local media, to owner Dan Snyder and his meddling ways. Now, second-year head coach Jay Gruden, who is on the hot seat himself, has benched him and proclaimed his time as starter in Washington is over.
There are certainly possibilities that Griffin could make his way to Dallas, in this never say never world of professional football. It just seems very unlikely that Dallas would be the team to navigate through the financial waters that Washington muddied themselves with the option year, to find out if Griffin is salvageable.