Washington’s NFL team is one of the worst run professional sports franchises on the planet. Between a bad owner who endlessly defends the offensive team name and poor personnel decisions, there’s not much it’s gotten right in recent memory.
Monday further solidified that legacy. The team was unable to come to terms with quarterback Kirk Cousins, which leaves him to play on the franchise tag for a second consecutive season. A third season under the franchise tag would mean the team pays him $34 million (or $28 million under the transition tag), and that’s just not going to happen.
No matter what happens moving forward, Cousins is going to become one of the highest paid quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. Washington has botched this entire situation, helping lead him to future greener pastures.
Signing Cousins sooner would have meant a lower price
Nobody expected Cousins to be here when he was drafted in 2012. He was selected by Washington in the fourth round after the team had selected who it expected to be its franchise quarterback — Robert Griffin III. Things didn’t pan out with Griffin, and now the selection of Cousins seems like a smart move.
Except this, too, is falling apart for Washington.
Cousins was given the franchise tag after the 2015 season in which he threw for nearly 4,200 yards and completed 70 percent of his passes. Throwing for 4,000 yards isn’t as out of this world as it once was, but it’s still a good season. Cousins followed that up in 2016 with nearly 5,000 yards passing and 25 touchdowns — that will raise some eyebrows.
It’s easy to say now that an extension after his 2015 campaign would have been a steal, but that also means the team would have had to have given him a legitimate offer. Washington has lowballed him since December 2015 with offers that were upward of $7 million less than the 2016 franchise tag, per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.
Signing him at $22 million per season would look like a bargain at this point. Instead, Cousins is going to make even more money, whether that’s in Washington or elsewhere. Former GM Scot McCloughan reportedly wanted a deal for Cousins and told people around the league that if he had full control, it would have happened in 2016. Yet at this point, Washington doesn’t seem like the best option for Cousins.
This could cost them a future franchise quarterback
Another season of Cousins seems like a waste for Washington. Chances are low that he returns after the season, and it’s pointless for the team to have either not extended him or get something in return and move forward. The 2018 NFL draft class is expected to be filled with quarterback talent with the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Josh Rosen, and others.
But with Cousins under center, Washington will be better than it would have been with just about any other option available. That’s going to cost Washington a better spot in the draft. So not only did they botch securing him to a deal in a reasonable amount of time, but they’re also going to likely cost themselves position for a better quarterback in next year’s draft assuming that’s the direction they decide to move in.
Sure, you could make the argument that in a draft class so deep, perhaps it doesn’t really matter how far they move back. But why not shoot for the best when you know the probable outcome? Play the odds in your favor when you can.
They threw him under the bus 10 days before training camp
After the 4 p.m. ET deadline on Monday, Washington released a statement from team president Bruce Allen, airing out contract negotiations.
It felt like one of those moments when you’re younger and you try to tell on your sibling first, thinking your parents will take your side. Because Allen disclosed what the team offered Cousins, he and the franchise expected everybody to look at Cousins and say “they tried, what’s your problem?” and that’s not the case at all.
It was corny, with verbiage like “despite our repeated attempts” and “we accept his decision” to try to make him out to be the bad guy. Yet coming from Washington, it’s not all that surprising.
Aside from that, the deal wasn’t good enough for Cousins to tell himself that he couldn’t do better. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero pointed out, “taking that offer would've meant gaining about $29 million and one year's security in exchange for giving [Washington] his rights through 2022 (and preserving their option to bail any time after 2018, barring injury).” That’s an easy pass if you’re Cousins.
Now he holds all of the leverage
Cousins has the keys now, and he’s not going to turn this car around. There’s no question that he’s betting on himself by playing on another one-year deal, though this time around it’s different.
He’s proved what he needs to prove on the field with his play. He can be greater than or equal to what he provided for Washington last year, which led to the NFL’s third-best total offense. If Washington takes a step back in 2017, he can point to the weapons he lost from 2016 and say that a dropoff in his own performance isn’t his fault. A team like the Jets, who have all the cap space in the world and the worst quarterback situation in the league, would not say no to Cousins and throw the checkbook at him.
Cousins is also going to be the first quarterback on the market in his prime in over a decade since Daunte Culpepper and Drew Brees were in 2006. With a rising salary cap coming and Derek Carr’s record $25.05 million average next season, it would take some sort of disaster for him to not get his contract next season.
Washington doesn’t know what they want to do
Washington hasn’t had a franchise quarterback since Joe Theismann, and he played his last season of football in 1985. Theismann even had an entire Monday Night Football broadcasting career go by, and the team has yet to find a quarterback to lead the way over several seasons.
This may be the closest they have come, even if we’re still not certain as to what type of player Cousins is.
On May 23, Allen told CSN Mid-Atlantic that there was still a possibility of giving him a third franchise tag in 2018. Monday, he told reporters that he hopes the team can secure a deal with Cousins so he could end his career in Washington. What the result will be can only be told as time passes.
Perhaps they could start by getting his first name right.