Franchise tag complicates the Kirk Cousins contract

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Q: What is Kirk Cousins worth in Washington?

A: Whatever Washington will pay him.

The more accurate answer is whatever Washington is required to pay him. Until the deadline for using the franchise tag expires, the starting point for a long-term Cousins contract sits at $23.94 million for 2017.

Why would he or should he accept $16 million or $18 million or $20 million per year on a long-term deal when he can get $23.94 million for one more year? Coupled with the $19.95 million he made for 2016 under the tag, that’s nearly $44 million for two years of work.

Last year, Cousins was believed to be looking for the value of the tag for 2016 and 2017 (nearly $44 million) to be guaranteed over the first two years of a long-term deal. Washington opted against that approach. This year, a similar stance from Cousins would result in $23.94 million for 2017 plus, by rule, a 44-percent increase for 2018, or $34.47 million.

That’s more than $58 million over two years. If Washington wasn’t prepared to pay Cousins $44 million over two years in 2016, it’s safe to say they won’t pony up $58 million over two years now.

And while it’s easy to argue that Cousins should be realistic regarding whether Washington would actually tag him again in 2018 at $34.47 million, that’s how long-term contracts for franchise-tagged players are valued. If Cousins deviates from that, his agent will face a torrent of criticism from other agents, who invariably will use the departure from convention against Cousins’ agent in the cutthroat content of recruiting players.

The tag-based analysis doesn’t evaporate until the deadline for using the tag comes and goes without Washington using it. If that happens, however, Washington will have no ability to keep Cousins from leaving for the 49ers or any other teams, for as much, more, or even less than Washington would offer when the formula becomes driven not by the tag but by the open market.

There’s a belief in some circles that, in the end, Washington will tag and trade Cousins. To make that happen, however, plenty of winking and nodding needs to happen behind the scenes over the next few weeks, with Washington striking a tentative trade deal and the next team striking a tentative contract with Cousins. Otherwise, Washington will be stuck with paying Cousins $23.94 million for 2017.

Cousins has been solid over the past two years, but it’s hard to say that he’s objectively worth $23.94 million for 2017. Ultimately, however, he’s worth whatever Washington needs to pay him — and they may end up needing to pay him $23.94 million for 2017.

22 responses to “Franchise tag complicates the Kirk Cousins contract

  1. I think it’s gotten emotional. Let the guy go elsewhere. Trade him … cut him … whatever … but it’s clear Washington has some reservations (pun intended).

  2. “Until the deadline for using the franchise tag expires, the starting point for a long-term Cousins contract sits at $23.94 million for 2017. Why would he or should he accept $16 million or $18 million or $20 million per year on a long-term deal when he can get $23.94 million for one more year? ”

    Because $72M over 4 years with over $37M guaranteed sounds a lot better than $23M with absolutely no safety net whatsoever.

    If what you say is what Cousins and his people believe, they may as well shut down negotiations right now and wait for the tag.

    Why would the Redskins make a long term commitment that starts at $23M in the first year and presumably goes up from there when they can have him next year for $23M with no further commitment? Or wait until the tag deadline expires and let the open market tell Cousins that he isn’t even worth the 23 and certainly not worth $34M in 2018.

  3. Why would he or should he accept $16 million or $18 million or $20 million per year on a long-term deal when he can get $23.94 million for one more year?
    ________________

    Long term security making around $20M (and the $40M-$60M that would come along with it) can be viewed as better than a 1 yr deal for $25M when you could have your career ended before you get your next payday.

    But that’s just me.

  4. “If Washington wasn’t prepared to pay Cousins $44 million over two years in 2016, it’s safe to say they won’t pony up $58 million over two years now.”

    —————–

    How is that safe to say? You don’t think following up 2015 with a strong 2016 could have any influence on their decision?

  5. NY Giants: Manning
    Cowboys: Prescott
    Eagles: Wentz

    The Redskins are taking a huge step back if they start over with an unknown commodity in 2017. For an apparent shaky front office that is on the hot seat, give him the money. If he wins great if not you let the next administration figure it out.

  6. but it’s clear Washington has some reservations (pun intended).

    Well played.

    Much better played than Cousins plays in big games.

  7. The answer to why he *might* accept a lower annual average in a long term deal is pretty obvious…

    Any long term deal – that he would accept – would need a much larger guarantee than $24M over the length of the deal. Basic risk shifting, just a matter of whether he’s willing to keep betting on himself and no injuries. Also a matter of whether the team is willing to make the counter-bet.

  8. He didnt do himself any favors with the poor play throughout and pick to end the final game, which would have gotten them into the playoffs. Once again he goes a full season playing elite against bad competition, and mediocre to bad against good competition. Who knows if Washington can find someone better, but committing yourself to Cousins and ending up in salary cap hell isnt the solution. Sign and trade, strait up for a top 5 pick.

  9. raiderinva says:

    The Redskins are taking a huge step back if they start over with an unknown commodity in 2017. For an apparent shaky front office that is on the hot seat, give him the money. If he wins great if not you let the next administration figure it out.
    ======

    You’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head here. There is no way the Redskins let Cousins walk or tag and trade him. This coach and GM absolutely CANNOT allow this team to take a step back or they will both be fired. They are in a win-now mode and love him or hate him, Cousins is their best option.

  10. How many more variations of this same story can you come up with? I swear it seems like every few days there’s ANOTHER story about Cousins and his contract situation, franchise tag, blah blah blah…TRUST ME we get it!!

  11. If you look at the teams who made the playoffs, if is pretty obvious you need a good QB.I think he has proven himself. If the Redskins don’t pay him, someone else will.

  12. rjwalnuts says:

    How many more variations of this same story can you come up with? I swear it seems like every few days there’s ANOTHER story about Cousins and his contract situation, franchise tag, blah blah blah…TRUST ME we get it!!
    _________________________________________

    2’nd this and would like to apply this further to the 2 or so articles that are going to come out basically saying the same thing over the next couple of weeks. This article has been reproduced and re-edited and re-posted about 8 times since the end of the season with the same conclusion presented. How about a new take…for once?

  13. The Front Office may have to sign Cousins to a long term deal. I dont think neither of tagging him or trading him will save the front office from getting fired the following year!

  14. “Why would he or should he accept $16 million or $18 million or $20 million per year on a long-term deal when he can get $23.94 million for one more year?”

    Let me answer this stupid question that this website for some reason repeatedly asks: because players MUST trade something in return for long-term security.

    If this post’s logic was accurate, then EVERY player who isn’t coming off of a career year would take one-year contracts. But teams take on a risk by signing a player for longer, and so the player needs to allow for something in return.

    If Cousins wants to sign for many years with a big fat guarantee, he has to be willing to accept less in 2017 than he would get under the franchise tag. Period, end of story. Perhaps he is still worth more, but there is no rule that teams “must” start with the franchise tag salary for 2017.

    In return for being stuck with a team for one more year, the franchise tag awards a player a hefty salary. THE REASON THE PLAYER GETS PAID A TON IS BECAUSE HE IS OTHERWISE BEING ROBBED OF BEING ABLE TO HIT THE FREE MARKET. If the player is CHOOSING to sign for longer, he has surrendered his handsome, but risky in the long term, franchise tag pay.

    If you want an example, take Anthony Spencer, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys. He was willing to play out the franchise tag, and Dallas was willing to wait out a long-term deal that worked for the team. Spencer ended up suffering a major injury that left him never the same again, and he never saw major money again. You can be darn sure that he wishes he had taken whatever long-term offer Dallas had on the table – even though it would have lowered his would-be franchise tag season’s salary – and you can also be darn sure that Washington will use examples such as that one to clearly disprove the asinine claim that all long-term contracts for tagged players must start with the franchise tag salary. Players can and should push for that, but there is no rule that says that is “has” to be that way.

  15. Look people this is very simple and I have been a life long Redskin fan, there is no way the Skins and Scott let Kirk play on the tag this year. The reason being #1 It would would just make the divide between the team and Kirk wider. #2 Kirk and his agent would knows the tag next year is 34.5 mill no way the team can or would do that. #3 Because of these and many other reasons it now or never for Kirk and the Skins this is a very complex problem for the Skins imo, must just say pay the man. Myself I`m not so sure, but if Kirk is willing to sign a deal then it`s all good and believe me it`s all on him if a long term deal gets done. Myself i look at it like this Kirk is a nice second tier QB he has very limited arm talent, same can be said for his running ability, decision making can be a problem as well. So think about this we trade him for a nice mid 1st (no team giving up a top 5 for Kirk imo) and say a 4th on top of that, we spend about 40mil on our defense. Keep Garcon, Jackson get Dotson healthy. Draft a kid like Chad Kelly kid loves the game comes from great genes has way my more physical tools than Cousins could ever have, surrounded by all those play makers, then draft a true RB like Cook from FSU. Would we really step back that far, or could we really be taking a huge step forward. We seen it this year with Cowboys you put enough talent around a young QB scale the offense back a bit it can work, Chad Kelly is a fireball of a leader as well…..js.

  16. Someone said “Why would the Redskins make a long term commitment that starts at $23M in the first year and presumably goes up from there when they can have him next year for $23M with no further commitment?” ANSWER: because no further commitment ALSO means no further rights to him. They will still need a QB IN 2018 and if Cousins plays well in 2017, then it will cost them $34 million to keep him for 2018, and there is NO WAY they can pay that. So then he becomes a free agent, signs in SF, and Washington is set back 5 years trying to find another QB at least as good as Cousins.

  17. Don’t forget, Cousins has improved every year. The offensive line has now reached a point of great. So, if this year, the Skins come close to the Super Bowl, and Cousins has ANOTHER very good year, are you going to pay him $35 million for another one year contract, or give him about $140 million for 5 years, OR let another team steal him, and you end up with zip for a QB for the NEXT 5 years? This was a dumb move by the Skins, by probably Bruce Allen, the same one responsible for getting rid of the “brain” on the team. The team improves for years, and reaches the position of “on the verge of a great year”, and now they’re on the verge of stupid! You’re almost there, don’t throw it away now!

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