Why the Washington Redskins didn't extend the contract of Kirk Cousins became the water cooler topic after Friday's league deadline passed more than why didn't the quarterback sign on the dotted line. If the report is true of an (insultingly) low offer from the team, Cousins staying on the franchise tag is logical.
As for what's up with the Redskins' decision, the collective hive settled on rationale involving wanting to see Cousins rewrite the franchise record book again while taking Washington back to the playoffs, basically. Another, more conspiratorial notion involves the upper of upper management refusing to pay the "other" quarterback selected by Washington in the 2012 NFL Draft high-end money out of spite for the man who drafted Cousins (Mike Shanahan) or the coach who couldn't fix Robert Griffin III (Jay Gruden).
There's another angle worth considering, one with far less drama and more X's and O's. With a strong offensive system in place and a general manager known for rocking the draft running the show, the Redskins think they can find a viable, more affordable alternative when needed.
Here's what MMQB.com NFL analyst Andy Benoit told Breaking Burgundy last month:
"That's why Washington didn't sign him to a long-term deal this offseason," Benoit said. "If they really believed that he were really something unique or was for sure going to be as good as he looked at times, they would have signed him now because you can probably get a slightly cheaper long-term rate on him now then you would if he does this again next year in theory."
"They wanted to pause and wait on [Cousins] as well because they know that they have a really good system in place and that system can probably work with a lot of other quarterbacks running it as well. It's not easy finding other quarterbacks, but Cousins is much more replaceable than other guys in the NFL."
Fast-forward to the present. This replacement angle is one Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio offered up while serving as guest editor for the MMQB on Monday.
It’s not easy to reconcile the team’s willingness to give Cousins nearly $20 million guaranteed for one year but only $24 guaranteed on a multi-year deal. The answer resides in G.M. Scot McCloughan’s quiet confidence that he can find another quarterback with comparable skill for a lot less money.
According to Florio, "Cousins wanted $44 million fully guaranteed at signing, roughly the sum of what he would have made under the tag this year ($19.95 million) and next year with a 20-percent raise ($23.94 million)." Washington reportedly countered with around $24 million.
More from Florio:
The team believes that, by 2017 or 2018, it will have found a quarterback on a slotted, low-money rookie four-year deal who can do what Cousins does, or close to it. That could be 2016 rookie sixth-rounder Nate Sudfeld, or it could be someone else. Regardless, Washington believes that someone younger, cheaper, and just as good if not better can be found, if Cousins still insists after 2016 or 2017 on breaking the bank.
The process definitely entails risk, both that they’re paying Cousins too much this year (e.g., the Ryan Fitzpatrick phenomenon) and that they won’t find someone as good or better. Regardless, with a $19.95 million bird in the hand, Cousins had no reason to accept the offer on a multi-year contract. Now, the challenge for Washington will be to go find its two in the bush, before Cousins flies away.
Cousins had two main points working in his favor this offseason: His passing fueled Washington's NFC East title and there are simply not enough viable NFL quarterbacks for all 32 teams. No matter what happens with the Redskins in 2016, that second point doesn't change.
As Florio notes, Washington could slap the franchise tag on Cousins in 2017 and 2018, but that would mean just under $35 million in that third year. That's not happening because of the money, but also because we're talking major slap in the face if the two sides cannot come to a long-term deal by that point.
Reaching this current scenario could already prove harmful to the relationship. This contract discussion becomes a daily topic from now until the end of days. Get asked hundreds of questions, who knows what answers emerge. Same goes for theories as to how we reached this point.
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