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Stay or Go? The Kirk Cousins Saga
Stay or Go: The Kirk Cousins Saga
In 2016 the Redskins finished with an 8-7-1 record and failed to reach the playoffs after Cousins led the team to an NFC East division title in '15, but ended quickly with a home exit against the Packers on Wild Card weekend. Cousins is now coming into his 6th year with the Redskins, however only his 3rd as the starter, but his future his blurred beyond this year. Cousins is the first quarterback in NFL history to play under the franchise tag in two consecutive seasons, and as Jay Gruden, Redskins head coach stated, he wants "stability at the position. I don't want any more one year deals." At this point it seems very unlikely the Skins would offer him the franchise tag again in '18, as the price is expected to jump up near $29 million for the position.
Why hasn’t Cousins signed with the Skins?
For Cousins, it's simple. He thinks he should be paid for his performance over the past two seasons and unfortunately for the Skins, the quarterback market around the league agrees with him. Cousins, if he gets the deal he ultimately believes he deserves, would make him the highest paid quarterback in NFL history. He would be making more per year then the likes of NFL Star QB's Tom Brady (Patriots), Drew Brees (Saints), and Aaron Rodgers (Packers). If you look at his numbers and performance compared to other recent QB contracts, Kirk indeed has been up to par. The most recent quarterback to sign an extension along the likes of "Cousins Money" was Derek Carr. Carr signed a 5-year $125 million dollar contract with $40 million guaranteed prior to the '17 season. For what its worth, the Raiders finished 6-10, 3rd in the AFC West this year with Carr posting career low numbers. The Raiders also fired head coach Jack Del Rio, and hired Jon Gruden, Jay Grudens' brother to a 10 year 100 million contract.
Cousins also knows if he were to hit the open market teams would begin a bidding war and he would get every bit of the money he has valued himself at. But perhaps, could Cousins want more than just the money he believes he deserves? Does he really want 30+ million a year, or does he want to be in a place with an elite defense and a front office that trust him? Maybe just a new atmosphere is something he desires. Cousins, when asked what he wants stated that’s ”to be wanted”. Cousins just wants commitment. The biggest disagreement for the Skins and Cousins team has been the total amount of "guaranteed" money. The Redskins front office, headed by ultra-criticized Bruce Allen has already offered Cousins $54 million of guaranteed money (most all time for a QB), which would add up to this year’s franchise tag and the next two years combined, providing the security Cousins seeks. Cousins and his team according to reports have asked for closer to $90 million in guaranteed money. Cousins wants to be drama free and most importantly to feel like he’s wanted and trusted by the front office, coaches, and teammates for the next 8-9+ plus years.
Where could Cousins end up?
After Peyton Manning retired in '15 the clear obstacle between the Broncos and another playoff run this year was a spotty passing game, so it would make good sense for John Elway, the GM, to look to upgrade the position. Their defense, led by defensive coordinator Joe Woods is still one of the best in league headed by elite sack artist Von Miller, and cover corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. But who will Denver look to sign in a key offseason after the Broncos have missed the playoffs the last 2 season after winning the Super Bowl over the Panthers in '16.
The Browns have long been enamored with Cousins and he’d undoubtedly give them their best passer in years. They finished the year at an abysmal 0-16, and allowed Rookie QB Deshone Kizer to carry them through week 17, however Cousins (nor anyone else, really) prefers to leave even a semi-negative situation for one of the worst in the league for the past 10+ seasons. However, the NFL is a business and the Browns, holding the #1 and #4 overall picks in the '18 Draft respectively could even lure Washington into a trade, or pitch Cousins that the picks could be used on offense, which would provide him with playmakers all over the field. The Browns would not feel forced to select a QB prospect in the draft, and would essentially have their guy at QB in Cousins.
Buffalo could be another option as they have shown zero commitment to their current crop of quarterbacks, including Tyrod Taylor, and rookie Nathan Peterman. Could that mean the Bills, with new head coach Sean McDermott in place could go get their guy (meaning Cousins) and make that final push to return to the playoffs in 2018-19 season? It would make sense. The Bills have been knocking on the door of the playoffs for years and finally broke through this year ending the longest playoff drought of all 4 major american sports. They have a terrific running game led by LeSean McCoy and a talented defense featuring rookie star corner Tre'Davious White, but the one thing they lack? A quality passer to get them through close games. Cousins could provide a team and a fan base with a QB with the ability they haven't had since Jim Kelly.
So where will Cousins end up?
Cousins has proven over the last two years that he can put up numbers, however he has been inconsistent at times. Leading the Redskins to the playoffs in 2015 and almost again in 2016, he has shown he has what it takes to lead an NFL franchise to the playoffs and if Washington is smart, they give him the contract he wants and put this issue to bed.
What team will Kirk Cousins sign with if he leaves Washington?
© 2018 Ryan Fowler