In each of the past two years, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has signed fully-guaranteed contracts. Of course, those contracts had a duration of only one year each.
With Cousins rocketing toward the open market (efforts by his current team to conjure up a way to trade him notwithstanding), the question becomes whether the next contract he signs will be fully guaranteed, for the full duration of its four, five, or six years.
One team already is being pegged in league circles as having the willingness to do it: The Jets. If the Jets will do it, other suitors for Cousins may have no choice but to follow suit.
Teams typically resist fully-guaranteeing more than the first two years of a contract at signing, because outdated rules require the guarantee to be funded at signing. It’s a protection that was put in place to benefit players at a time when there were concerns about the ability of teams to make ends meet. Now, to borrow a line from Eddie Murphy, the ends are meeting like a mutherf–cker.
Three years ago, the Dolphins fully guaranteed the first three years of Ndamukong Suh‘s contract. That same year, the Jets signed Darrelle Revis to a contract that contained fully-guaranteed salaries for 2015 and 2016, with $6 million of his 2017 salary fully guaranteed at signing.
So the Jets, at least once before, have departed from the standard reluctance to fully guarantee at signing more than two years of pay. Will they, or anyone else, do it into the fourth year or beyond with Cousins?
Apart from the unprecedented nature of the gesture is the question of its actual value to the player. Franchise quarterbacks rarely lose their fastball or suffer career-ending injuries. Most end up either finishing a long-term deal completely or having it torn up and replaced by a bigger deal before it expires.
As a result, Cousins could shrug at that term and say, for example, “I’d rather have a term that guarantees me a fixed percentage of the salary cap beyond year two.”
However it plays out, the man who became an unlikely trailblazer regarding the value of going year-to-year under the franchise tag could carve a new path for NFL players, either by getting a fully-guaranteed contract, securing out-year salaries based on a percentage of the cap, or both.