Surely Kirk Cousins will be the most attractive name in the coming free agent market in the NFL – if he ever gets there.
There are many complicated factors surrounding the Cousing situation. For the third year in a row, the Washington Redskins quarterback enters the last month of the season without a contract for next year. For the third year in a row, your team will have the option of keeping you out of the market if you do not mind paying a hefty salary for one year.
This year has even more opportunities for Cousins to enter free agency without restrictions – and for a healthy and productive quarterback at the best moment of his career, that can translate into a contract worth more than $ 30 million a year with close of $ 70 million in guarantees. But it’s never that easy with Cousins’ situation, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how everything will end up running.
So, with one month left of the season and three months before the start of the 2018 league season, let’s look at what has changed, and what has not changed, in the Cousins ​​situation since July, when he and the team failed to reach A long-term agreement and rules required that he play 2017 with a one-year contract and $ 23.9 million with the franchise player label.
What has changed
The value: Washington could still keep Cousins ​​out of the market if they want to do so through the use of the franchise player designation or the transition player designation. But those actions will have a strong cost to the team.
Putting the franchise tag for the third consecutive year, which is what Washington would be doing in this case, would require a one-year salary equivalent to 144 percent of the previous year’s salary. That means that putting a franchise tag and keeping Cousins ​​out of the market would cost Washington about $ 34 million in fully guaranteed money in 2018. Even with the fact that the salary cap is expected to rise, that’s a huge price. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is expected to win $ 22.5 million in 2018, and that’s the biggest cash payment for any player. The quarterback of the Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford represents a blow of $ 26.5 million to the salary cap of his team, and that is the highest in that line. A guaranteed salary of $ 34 million (and the blow to the salary cap that implies) may not be sustainable for the Redskins roster.
Using the transition label could make a bit of sense for Washington. That would cost “only” $ 28.8 million for 2018, but would allow other teams to offer Cousins ​​a long-term contract. So Cousins ​​would have an opportunity to play the market, and if another team offers him the long-term contract he seeks with the terms he wants, Washington would have the right to match the offer and keep it. That strategy would make sense if Washington has decided that it is willing to pay Cousins ​​the market value for long-term money, but wants the market to dictate. Basically they are saying that “if you think you’re worth $ 30 million in the market, then give it a try and if you’re right, we’ll match it.” The risk there is if a team makes an offer that Washington can not or does not want to match, and in that case, the Redskins would not be entitled to compensation for draft turns, and in that case, they would lose Cousins ​​in exchange for nothing.
Now Jared Goff is good, and the 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo: Before the season started, the most likely destinations for Cousins ​​were the Los Angeles Rams, where the former offensive coordinator of the Redskins, Sean McVay, is now head coach , and the San Francisco 49ers, where Kyle Shanahan, another former Redskins offensive co-ordinator, is now head coach. Cousins ​​has a close relationship with both coaches. It was also projected that the 49ers would have more than $ 100 million in salary cap space for next year, which put them along with the Browns as the richest teams in terms of salary cap and with the ability to pay a lot in the market. free agents by Cousins.
But McVay and the Rams are 9-3 with the second-most scoring offense in the league, and it does not look like they’re looking to replace Goff, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, in the near future. And just before the trade deadline, the 49ers made a change with the New England Patriots to acquire Garoppolo, leaving most people in the league believing that they see him as their quarterback of the future, which takes them as bidders in the auction for Cousins ​​services.

There are people close to the situation who say that the door is not necessarily closed for Cousins ​​in San Francisco. It is still possible that if Garoppolo does not show enough in recent games to convince Shanahan, he opts because Cousins ​​is a better bet. In that case, they could be breaking relations with Garoppolo, or letting it go to free agency – they have not signed it yet in the long term – or changing it if they sign it to an extension. The acquisition of Garoppolo gives the 49ers options, and a valuable asset, which protects them if Washington decides not to let Cousins ​​enter the market. But while all that may be true, objectively, the addition of Garoppolo seems to at least limit San Francisco to be an option for Cousins.
Other new teams may be options: Several quarterback situations around the league look different than they looked in July. The Buffalo Bills are clearly not convinced that Tyrod Taylor is a long-term solution. The New York Giants seem to have no idea what they will do with Eli Manning and may have a need in case they do not select a high quarterback in the draft. The New York Jets do not seem to have a selection as high as expected, and have not given opportunity to their young quarterback because they have given the reins of the offensive to Josh McCown. The Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals are teams to watch because of a potential coach change and the ability to get out of Andy Dalton’s contract, if that’s what they want to do. The potential market for Cousins ​​may have lost a team or two, but perhaps it has won even more.

What has not changed
Washington’s ability to control the situation: As previously discussed, Washington could simply prevent Cousins ​​from reaching free agency if it decides it can pay what they have to pay to stay within the rules. And this could continue to occur for perpetuity. There is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement that prevents a team from putting the franchise tag on the same player for four consecutive years, and hypothetically, Cousins ​​could play 2018 with a franchise tag of $ 34 million, and if Washington wanted to do so new in 2019, perhaps they have a view to elucidate it and arrive at a figure, and so on.
As for the transition label, there are no limits on the number of years it can be used – as long as the team can absorb 20 percent increases in base salary. So if Washington wants to use the transition label in Cousins ​​in 2018 and does not get the long-term contract and play for $ 28.8 million, they can transition it again in 2019 for $ 34.6 million and again in 2020 for $ 41.5 million until the end of his career (obviously assuming that those rules do not change with the next collective agreement, which would begin in 2021).
This is not to say that Washington would do that, obviously, or if they could not even pay for that. But it is to emphasize the fact that – at a significant cost – Washington can keep control of the situation and keep Cousins ​​as its quarterback even if he does not want it.
Cousins’ attitude about all this: Cousins ​​insists that he does not mind the idea of ​​continuing to play with one-year contracts and; Who is to blame? As the fourth-round pick in the year that made a change to get Robert Griffin III with the second global pick, Cousins ​​was not supposed to even play with this team, much less be his franchise quarterback. As things stand right now, he has earned almost $ 44 million over the past two years and, in the worst case, is on track to earn another $ 28.8 million in 2018. He has shown that playing without a contract extension does not bother him and is on track for his third consecutive season of more than 4,000 passing yards and more than 25 touchdown passes.

Surely, Cousins ​​would enjoy entering the free agent market, sitting with other teams, coaches and general managers and talking about opportunities outside of Washington. But clearly it’s fine – emotionally and especially financially – if that does not happen. In many ways, this season – in which Washington’s offensive line collapsed and the body of receivers has never been agglutinated – has served as a showcase for Cousins’ ability to function in an adverse ambient. That’s something any franchise would want its quarterback to demonstrate, and if Washington is still not convinced, that might say more about the franchise than about Cousins.
The need: We mentioned some teams that their needs in the position may be greater than originally thought, but that is only the beginning. In addition to the aforementioned teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Arizona Cardinals, the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos will all enter the season for samples seeking help in the quarterback position. Depending on what happens to veterans, the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers could be too. There could be up to half a dozen teams looking for Cousins ​​services if they enter the market, and that number could increase considerably.
What we do not know yet
If Washington’s perspective has changed: The rules say that if a team does not sign its franchise player to a long-term extension by mid-July, it can not negotiate a long-term contract with the player until the end of the season. So there have been no more negotiations between Cousins ​​and the Redskins since July 15 and, therefore, Cousins ​​does not know if Washington is still willing to offer a contract attractive enough to keep him in free agency.

Washington could begin negotiations with Cousins ​​as soon as the season ends. Since it’s apparent that Washington will not make the postseason, that means negotiations could start on January 1, which would give Washington management a two-month lead over the rest of the market. But after all that has happened, all the money he has won, and now that he is closer than ever to free agency, the team probably will not be able to assure Cousins ​​in January or February for anything less than what he expects in the open market. There will be no discounts.
That probably means, as we discussed earlier, a contract in excess of $ 30 million a year with something like $ 70 million in collateral – a contract that would revert in size those signed by Carr and Stafford, who were not free agents in the open market and were negotiating only with your current equipment.
Since the rules of franchise labels were created, no healthy quarterback and at its best has entered the open market. The biggest names that made them were Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and both were available only for their injuries. The position of Cousins ​​is unprecedented and that is the reason why the numbers are so high. The question is whether you will have the opportunity to reach those numbers.

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