Amid largely pointless talk of an improved tone during negotiations and in the wake of a public plea from new senior V.P. of player personnel Doug Williams, the clock continues to tick toward the deadline for doing a long-term deal between Washington and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
The window closes in four weeks (actually, four weeks and two days, since July 15 lands on a Saturday). After that, there can be no multi-year deal until after the regular season concludes.
The math remains simple. (Which nearly qualifies me to perform it.) With Cousins already having $23.94 million in hand for 2017, the issue hinges on the amount of cash and guarantees and other terms that the team will offer and that the player will expect in order to commit to each other beyond this year. For months, the thinking has been that Cousins expects a full guarantee that includes both the franchise tender for 2017 and the transition tender for 2018, which would equate to another $28.72 million. Which means that it will take $52.66 million fully guaranteed at a minimum to get something done.
And that’s just to cover the first two years. Cousins may want guarantees that stretch into the third year, and he may push for a percentage of the salary cap in the distant years of the contract. Washington may be looking for more of a bargain on the back end, allowing the team to build around the quarterback they claim to want to keep.
Ultimately, Cousins holds all the cards. With $19.95 million already earned in 2016 under the tag and another $23.94 million on the way, he’s already at nearly $44 million. And if the team uses the transition tag in 2018, it will have only a right to match with no compensation, allowing Cousins to sign an offer sheet with another team (the 49ers and Rams could end up in a tug of war) that Washington wouldn’t or couldn’t match.
To prevent that from happening, Washington would need to use the franchise tag for a third time, resulting in a 44-percent bump over the $23.94 million franchise tender for 2017. That will cost $34.47 million.
So, yes, Cousins holds the cards. And the team has only itself to blame for not making a move to sign Cousins to an affordable but nevertheless life-changing contract in 2015, once they knew that the first-rounder from 2012 wasn’t the answer and that the fourth-rounder from that same draft was.