WASHINGTON — One of the many lenses through which to gauge the Redskins’ season is that every time Kirk Cousins performs well, he makes next offseason’s contract negotiations that much more difficult for the front office.
It was a topic for Tuesday night’s Inside the NFL, where hosts Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms, accomplished NFL quarterbacks in their own right, debated the sticking points that led to Cousins playing a second consecutive season on the franchise tag.
“I don’t necessarily know that he likes the Redskins as an organization,” Esiason said of Cousins. “I know he loves the coach (Jay Gruden). I know he loves the players but I’m not so sure that he feels that he’s being treated fairly by the organization.
“I would say this, if they do not sign him, they’re crazy. They’re absolutely crazy. He deserves a long-term contract.”
That’s easier said than done. The Redskins have twice tagged Cousins, setting his salary at $23,943,600, fully-guaranteed for this season. That number is 120 percent higher than the average of the top-five paid quarterbacks last season, which was the formula for his salary in 2017.
The negotiation window on a long-term contract closed before the start of training camp, Cousins and the Redskins have to wait until the offseason, even if they wanted to finalize a deal now.
That means that negotiations will likely start out at the value of the franchise tag for a third season, which is north of $30 million. That’s historic leverage for an NFL player if he can get there in a healthy and productive fashion.
In between now and then, things can go one of two ways for the quarterback and his team: he can perform well and increase his value, or play poorly and potentially lose all of the leverage he has.
“He’s basically betting on himself. He’s turned down a long-term contract that really didn’t give him the guaranteed money that he would have gotten and that he will get if he plays under the franchise tag.
“This kid is playing for himself. He believes in himself.”
Believing in yourself is only half of the equation. Already this season, we’ve seen injuries to fellow quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Derek Carr that have severely limited their playmaking ability. A broken collarbone for Aaron Rodgers has put the best quarterback in the league on clipboard duty.
Injuries can strike at any time, but that’s all just part of the equation for Cousins.
“I think, Kirk Cousins knows the risk of playing quarterback,” Phil Simms said. “Years ago he would have taken a deal if it would’ve been presented to him and was somewhat satisfying. It didn’t have to be a great deal; you don’t know from year-to-year.
“Your team? You can get hurt. We see that with everybody. Look at Odell Beckham Jr. Boomer, you and I talked about this back in April. He wasn’t going to camp and I said if I was Odell Beckham Jr., I would not show up at anything until that contract is done.”
Only time will tell how things play out for Cousins, but early returns are encouraging. After five games, Cousins is third in the NFL in passer rating (106.4), trailing only Alex Smith and Tom Brady.
And he’s doing all of this while becoming a first-time dad: