WASHINGTON — It seems with every passing (no pun intended) game, Kirk Cousins earns himself another million dollars in his next contract.
It’s for good reason. His past five games look like this:
10/23: 30-of-39, 301 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions, 106.9 rating
10/30: 38-of-56, 458 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 97.2 rating
11/13: 22-of-33, 262 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 110.9 rating
11/20: 21-of-30, 375 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 145.8 rating
11/24: 41-of-53, 449 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 120.7 rating
In total, that’s 152-of-211 (72 percent) for 1,845 yards (369 per game), 11 touchdowns, 1 interception and an average rating of 116.3. Not too shabby.
His numbers for the season also put among the league’s top signal-callers, which means when he becomes eligible for free agency after this season, he’ll be due a contract worthy of the league’s best. It’s becoming more and more likely that Washington will either place the franchise tag on Cousins for a second time in as many seasons or offer him a massive contract that pays him more than $20 million annually.
Former agent and current salary cap expert for CBS Sports Joel Corry joined Grant and Danny Tuesday to discuss the numbers Cousins could see this offseason, and he expects big, big numbers.
“Everyone’s going to choke on the number when it comes in, but he’s going to be one of the five highest-paid players in the NFL,” Corry said. “It’s going to be in that Andrew Luck range.”
Luck signed a five-year extension worth $123 million back in June, and that doesn’t even start until after the 2016 season.
According to reports, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback will get $80 million or so in guaranteed money. So when Corry says “in that Andrew Luck range,” he likely means Cousins is going to be getting close to $25 million per season.
“At the beginning of the season, I would say it was in the $20 million a year range,” Corry said of Cousins’ looming contract. “But Kirk Cousins is winning the bet on himself. Similar to Joe Flacco winning the bet on himself when he played out his rookie contract, the difference is at this juncture, in Flacco’s year, it looked like he was losing his bet when they lost to Denver and got Cam Cameron fired.
Kirk Cousins is playing at a much higher level than Joe Flacco ever did, it’s just Flacco had that amazing [postseason] run, and that’s what got him his contract. Cousins doesn’t need to do that to get his money.”
“From a numbers standpoint, when you talk Luck, when you say that range, give us a ballpark here. What are we thinking?” asked host Grant Paulsen.
“If they put a franchise tag on him again, it’s going to be almost $24 million,” Corry said. “[His agent] is going to use that as a starting point for discussions. So you’re going to immediately be in that $24 million ballpark if you franchise him again.
“He’s not going to accept less than Von Miller’s guarantees, which is $70 million. So you’re talking $70 million guaranteed, minimum, and you’re going to have to fully guarantee at least 40 [million] of that at signing. Josh Norman has 36.5 [million] fully guaranteed at signing, and he’s a cornerback. So that’s the market you’re going to be in if you’re gonna have Kirk Cousins long-term.”
Corry added the dearth of quality passers will drive the price up, as there is no surefire top quarterback available in the 2017 draft, and the free agent class is, as usual, uninspiring. Good quarterbacks almost never reach free agency, which is why we are where we are with Cousins.
Making things worse for Washington, Corry says, is how it handled Cousins’ contract negotiations after the 2015 season, when Cousins was reportedly presented with an exceptionally low offer.
“The agent’s going to look at it from the standpoint of you could have signed him for $20 million last year,” he said. “I incurred the whole risk of poor performance and injury — I’m assuming Kirk gets through the season healthy — and I won the bet. So I expect to be rewarded for that bet, and you’re going to pay what the market is because you could have had him a lot cheaper if you’d done this last year.
“I’m not cutting [the Redskins] any slack, particularly after the offer you gave last year. The best offer from my understanding was Andy Dalton-type money (Dalton signed a six-year, $115 million deal in 2014, but it is considered one of the most team-friendly deals in the NFL) with slightly better guarantees.
“And you went out and paid a guy who didn’t have a long track record of being great. Josh Norman had one great year. The 2014 season, he began it on the bench, played very well the second half of the year — that’s not a great track record. Jordan Reed got paid, he hasn’t stayed healthy, he had one great year. So that’s gonna factor into the equation as well. Agents have a long memory about stuff like that.”
Another thing agents have a long memory about, according to Corry, is the previous offers a team has offered clients. The former agent told Grant and Danny the Redskins’ refusal to increase their offer last offseason, even after the considerably less proven Brock Osweiler signed a four-year, $72 million deal (with $37 million guaranteed), hurts their cause even more.
Osweiler has failed to live up to his deal thus far, throwing 12 touchdowns to 13 interceptions with just 2,307 yards through 11 games. That fact both helps and hurts the Redskins.
It helps justify Washington’s desire to see more out of Cousins before offering him a massive deal, as there are few things a team can do that are as crippling as blowing a large chunk of the salary cap on a fluke player. But it hurts in that Cousins has proven himself in the second season and has earned an even bigger deal than he would have a year earlier, and the Redskins don’t have any goodwill left over having essentially told their quarterback they didn’t trust his initial success.
So the Redskins might feel more confident about giving Cousins a huge contract this time around, but they’ll be paying — figuratively and literally — for their initial hesitance.
“He’s probably playing his best football of his life, and he’s an ascending player,” Corry said. “That’s the type of player that you should want to pay. And if the Redskins won’t, I’m sure there’s someone who will.”
The Redskins will have plenty of cap room entering this offseason, but they also have plenty of needs. As Corry notes, GM Scot McCloughan has a good reputation as a talent evaluator, but it’s not a flawless track record. McCloughan was part of the personnel team that opted to take Alex Smith with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft (the second quarterback taken in that draft was Aaron Rodgers; the third quarterback was Jason Campbell, by the Washington Redskins), and he was part of the Seattle Seahawks group that gave Matt Flynn a massive contract in 2012 after exactly one good NFL game.
However, he was also part of the Seahawks personnel department that, also in 2012, drafted Russell Wilson in the third round.
The full call with Corry is available below.