WASHINGTON — In an offseason full of “nothing burger” reports about Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, NFL insider Adam Schefter floated an interesting nugget about team president Bruce Allen.
“I would say this,” he said during a recent appearance on 104.3 The Fan in Denver, “that Bruce Allen, their GM and their president, he is one of the smartest people in the NFL.”
This was not his larger point, but it is something that will cause Redskins fans to raise an eyebrow. His point is that the Redskins are faced with a tough decision on how to get value from Cousins–either via contract extension or trade–and that the team is in good hands.
“A question that has repeatedly come up among people in the league is: what are they going to do with Kirk Cousins and how are they going to handle this?” he said. “I think, in a perfect world, Kirk would like to leave there. OK, the question is how does it happen?
“It’s really a pick-your-poison sort of deal, and as smart as Bruce is, and as shrewd as he is, they’re still in the spot that they are because we’ve never seen a team franchise a quarterback and seen him face a third-straight year with that tag. So we really are in unprecedented territory.
“This has never happened…and as smart as some of those Redskins people are, Kirk Cousins–and he’s earned this–has the leverage in this particular situation.”
That is three references to how smart the brain trust is for the Redskins, with an extra “shrewd” bestowed on Allen. And yet, in the same breath, Schefter acknowledges that the Redskins have given Cousins all of the leverage in this situation by continuing to bet against him with one-year, rapidly escalating deals.
For the sake of argument, let’s ignore all of the evidence against Allen and give him a clean slate. Let’s ignore that after hiring him to make personnel decisions, the team has twice turned to other de facto general managers (Mike Shanahan and Scot McCloughan); or that vicious internal leaks preceded the demise of Robert Griffin III, Shanahan and McCloughan; or that the team is 56-87-1 under his watch; or that the team has drafted just eight Pro Bowlers in his nine years at the helm, with only three of those taken after the first round.
Let’s forget everything except for his handling of Cousins, as it has played out in the media.
From what we’ve been told, it was the since-deposed McCloughan who wanted to sign Cousins to a long-term deal in early 2015. It was Allen and owner Dan Snyder who reportedly opposed the deal.
After a successful first season as a starter, the team again had a chance to sign Cousins to a long-term deal as he faced unrestricted free agency. Instead, the team hit him with a franchise tag for 2016, in a move that kept their options open if he faltered.
He delivered a Pro Bowl season.
When the team again hit him with the franchise tag, Cousins declined to negotiate on a long-term deal. Allen made that part public after the negotiation period ended, but he should have known that before tagging Cousins.
By repeatedly failing to accurately assess Cousins’ value, he gambled away the team’s leverage in a painfully obvious way. Now, those chickens have come home to roost in a way that will dominate offseason headlines.
Through his handling of the Cousins situation, the Redskins have created three realities:
- Battered trust with a key player, which increases his contract demands;
- Negotiations that start at the annual franchise tag amount of $34.5 million;
- The possibility of losing the team’s best quarterback in a generation.
Now, there are many ways of gauging intelligence, particularly in the realm of professional sports. No one is saying that Allen isn’t smart, and his lifer status buys him significant credibility and benefit of the doubt. He is also likely a reliable source for Schefter, who has relationships to maintain.
But if history is any indication of Allen’s future dealings with Cousins, there is little hope for a “shrewd” solution in 2018.