The Redskins choice isn't Cousins or Jackson or Garcon -- but it actually might be

Keeping the quarterback and his two wide receivers probably happens except for one, very highly plausible exception.

The Redskins have a number of tough decisions this offseason. Over the next few weeks, Breaking Burgundy senior writer Chris Russell will examine those decisions. After starting with the defense, specifically Terrance Knighton and a pair of veteran safeties,  the focus shifts to the other side of the ball. 

All the contract talk about how much it will cost the Washington Redskins to keep quarterback Kirk Cousins overlooks a key aspect. The cost for keeping Cousins may be DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon.

Jackson is an irreplaceable talent in most observer’s eyes. I don’t agree with that. I would never say that anybody is irreplaceable. Would Jackson be hard to replace? Of course. That’s the problem. It’s not easy to find someone with electric speed, experience and ball tracking ability. 

Because of these skills, everyone including myself, expects Jackson to be back. He’ll cost $9.25 million but for the first time with the Redskins, it is not a guaranteed contract, which opens the door for this discussion. It’s the final year of Jackson’s contract. 

If the Redskins wanted to release him or had to release him, Jackson would cost $2.5 million before June 1st and $1.25 million after that date against the 2016 salary cap. 

The Redskins only had Jackson for nine games last year. He averaged 17.6 yards on 30 catches with four touchdowns. 

Clearly his presence changes things. Nobody would deny that. But let’s stop acting like the Redskins cannot win without Jackson. Especially when you consider his individualistic tendencies and his off-and-on injury history. 

Garcon is not the fastest or tallest receiver in the NFL. He occasionally drives me crazy, but he’s still a solid target. He had 72 catches for 777 yards and six touchdowns last year. 

Garcon is also entering the final year of his contract. He’s scheduled to count $10.2 million and has a dead cap charge of $2.2 million. In other words, he costs more against the cap than Jackson does but costs slightly less to cut. 

I don’t believe either are going anywhere assuming one very important thing, which we’ll get to shortly. However, if I had to keep one or the other, I would slightly lean towards Garcon because of what he brings you in the run game and his durability. 

Sure he doesn’t stretch the field like Jackson does, but I think it’s slightly easier to find somebody that runs really fast than it is to find somebody who produces in the role Garcon occupies. 

Here's the one thing Washington should not do under any circumstance: Renegotiate either contract and extend it past this year at a higher cap number for next year to save money this year. 

Sure, the salary cap keeps climbing, but so do player salaries. Something often lost in the save now, pay later philosophy. It’s also something the Redskins have simply not done under team president Bruce Allen. 

Again, I believe both will stay at a combined $19.6 million. That is if the Redskins have to pay approximately the same figure in a one-year deal, fully guaranteed for Cousins because of the Franchise Tag. 

Sorry, but there’s no chance I would pay three players on the same side of the ball - with two dependent largely on the one - around $39.5 million of the salary cap which will be probably come in around $155-$160 million for the Redskins. That's after league maximum is set and rollovers/incentives are calculated. 

Washington could justify paying rather obscene figures at wide receiver over the last two years. Why? Because they were paying their quarterbacks and running backs next to nothing.

Cousins had a cap figure of about $778,000 last year. Robert Griffin III counted for $6.7 million and Colt McCoy counted for roughly $1.3 million. For the position as a whole with three quarterbacks and therefore three roster spots, that’s a total of about $8.8 million. 

By comparison, Tony Romo's cap hit last season cost Dallas $14.9 million. Even by combining runners Alfred Morris ($1.57 million) and Matt Jones ($585K) with the quarterbacks, they don't reach Romo. 

According to – the Redskins offensive unit currently counts for more than $78 million of the $147.8 million that comprises the Top 51 players under contract. That’s with $16.15 million budgeted for Griffin. Obviously that figure will go away once the Redskins cut RG3, but if replaced by a franchise or transition tag for Cousins, the savings will be abolished and in fact, it is more costly. 

With the QB cap scenario possibly rising by $11 million more overall just for Cousins via the franchise tag, can the Redskins really afford to pay roughly 25% of your salary cap to two position groups and three players? I am not the smartest guy in the world, but I can’t imagine how that makes much sense to anybody that is actually thinking about it. 

Here’s the bottom-line as I see it. You want Jackson and Garcon both back? Fine, but you can’t franchise tag Kirk Cousins. If you don't, that could cost you Kirk Cousins. If you deem Cousins a “keep at all costs” player, than I’m not sure how you keep both Jackson and Garcon. 

Take your pick. 

Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy, longtime reporter on the Redskins beat and radio host for 1067 The Fan. Follow Chris on Twitter @russellmania621.

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