The Redskins shouldn't just sign Kirk Cousins to contract extension, but do so right away

Chris Russell writes and Ben Standig talks about why the Redskins figuring out a contract plan with Kirk Cousins is in their best interest.

A few weeks back, after Kirk Cousins threw a game-ending interception that was returned for a touchdown by the Falcons, someone on the radio bravely suggested that Scot McCloughan and the Redskins should do everything they could to lock up the quarterback with a one-year extension.

Not at the end of the season. Not in Week 11. This was after Week five.

Fast forward five or so weeks later and that someone is penning this column, saying essentially while they should have done it then, right now would suffice.

Allow me to be crystal-clear in my thought process. I haven't wavered for a moment in my overall belief that Cousins has improved and probably will continue to improve. That doesn't mean he won't have some bad games. He will. 

If I am a betting man, and I try very hard to think with my head instead of my heart, Cousins is going to make the Redskins pay in a good way. 

If Cousins' performance keeps heading in the right direction, that's a good thing for the Redskins. A really good thing. However, that comes at a cost. Do it now, or you will pay even more. 

The pay later, wait-and-see method might work but remember how that worked for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens? He gambled on himself. They pushed the decision off and he led them to a Super Bowl. Flacco got paid a massive contract, one that he couldn't possibly live up to and while the Ravens had their Super Bowl - they were unable to keep some of the core members of their team since. 

Whatever the Redskins choose to do, they are playing with fire if they wait for the end of the season.

That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact.

Through nine games, Cousins has completed nearly 68% of his passes, thrown for 2,278 yards (253.1 per game) and has 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions for the 4-5 and NFC East contending Redskins.

I could make a very strong argument he should only have six interceptions, but I’ll leave that to Scot McCloughan and Jay Gruden to fully decide.

After a near flawless performance on Sunday in a 47-14 beat down of the Saints in which Cousins was (20-25, 324, 4 TD, O INT), the question once again had to be asked and discussed.

So I did Monday morning on 106.7 the FAN. It spurred a day of debate and the question even being asked to the Redskins head coach.

“Kirk’s a guy we’d like to keep around, no doubt, but it’ll be up to Scot, Kirk’s agent and Kirk," Jay Gruden said at his press conference. 

Indeed. Many parties with some conflicting interests are involved in this situation. So what could happen moving forward?

 

“Kirk Cousins is betting on himself. It’s basically Kirk putting himself in a great position assuming he continues to play well,” J.I. Halsell of NFLContractMetrics.com said to Breaking Breaking Monday. “If they’re not talking extension right now, it’s because Kirk and Mike (McCartney, Cousins’ agent)) are betting on themselves."

Halsell isn’t just a salary cap analyst or a website content provider. As a former player agent, he has lived this situation on both sides.

Halsell was a salary cap analyst for the Redskins under Eric Schaffer. He served in a few media jobs after leaving the Redskins in 2009, contributing greatly to my coverage of the Burgundy and Gold over the years.

Halsell then joined Priority Sports in Chicago. That just happens to be the agency McCartney represents and therefore, the agency looking out for Cousins.

Another thing to keep in mind that might benefit the Redskins to some degree is that Scot McCloughan and McCartney have a very close relationship for a General Manager and agent. Sources described the relationship as one of honesty and candor. It’s part of the reason why Cousins actually believed he had a chance to win the starting job.

According to a source, McCloughan  promised McCartney at the Scouting Combine last February that despite the public announcement of Robert Griffin III as the starter, Cousins was very much alive to win the starting quarterback spot.

Promise delivered and that’s an important note, considering how Cousins really was stuck in a terrible position for himself upon being drafted by the Redskins.

While he has not spoken directly to the parties involved in this situation about this subject, Halsell has insight from his experience working for both sides that I consider (and so should you) valuable.

In a nut-shell, Halsell says that Cousins and his agent should wait. From the Redskins end, the clock is ticking.

“I doubt they franchise or transition tag him,” Halsell said. “From a club perspective I want to get this deal done because it’s only going to get more expensive.”

Assuming they can’t get a long-term deal done, they would most likely let him hit the market despite having some level of first refusal at their disposal.

The Redskins may not franchise tag Cousins. Doing so would probably cost in excess of 20 million for 2016. They could put the transition tag at a lower cost on him. Also, the Redskins could use the franchise tag as a basis for a new deal and offer.

Halsell says that any multiple year offer would have to include around 20 million in true guarantees. Essentially the rough figure for the 2016 franchise tag.

The key then would be the structure. If you give Cousins and McCartney the guarantees that they would want as a minimum, then you could structure a deal with no guaranteed money beyond 2016.

A similar structure exists for Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton and others like Ryan Tannehill.

“You can structure a lucrative pay-as you go contract,” Halsell said.

But that’s the key to doing it right now or before Cousins hits free agency.

“If you can sell the player and agent on how lucrative it could be, that could be enticing.”

Halsell knows that the team -- in this case, the team calling Ashburn home -- would be willing to pay up, but the key would be the Redskins saying “we have to have our structure.”

As for what a multi-year offer could look like, Halsell says a three-year, $52 million dollar extension with about 20 million in true guarantees could work and here’s why.

The player gets approximately $17 million per season on average for a year-two starter plus gets his roughly 20 million in true guarantees.

The team would then spin in like this: They would include this current year in the breakdown which is currently covered by Cousins’ rookie contract. Essentially, the Redskins are paying Cousins peanuts right now. About $660,000. 

The Redskins and their brass would be able to sell it as a four-year deal for roughly the 20 million guaranteed and 52 million overall, which lowers their average annual hit to around 13 million per year. That would be because they got a productive starting quarterback for 2015 for next to nothing. 

“Everyone wins from a marketing perspective,” Halsell says.

Remember that the Redskins currently have 16.15 million tied up in a fifth-year option for 2016 and Robert Griffin III. Barring a disaster, they will drop that and be able to use that figure to more than cover Cousins cap hit and 2016 payout.

In terms of the initial QB scenario, Cousins has been open and honest about his frustrations at the situation but always handled himself with dignity and professionalism.

While Halsell reminds us all that a possibility exists Cousins would want to get away from D.C. if they try to low-ball him by saying “I don’t know if Kirk wants to be there or not, long-term,” I say that the Redskins, because of McCloughan’s words ringing true last February, have made up for any possible acrimony between the two sides.

Now all they have to do is get a deal done. Like now. 


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