Assessing a Contract Extension for Kirk Cousins in Was

Now that the Washington Redskins have offered a second franchise tag to 28 year old QB Kirk Cousins, his long-term (and short-term reportedly) future appears to be in question. We’ll take a quick look at what his back to back franchise tags mean financially, and how the Redskins could structure a contract that does right by him and them simultaneously.

The Redskins have already agreed to a 2 year, $44M contract.

By slapping the franchise tag on him in both 2016 & 2017, Cousins is set to earn $43,896,600 across the two seasons. This 2 year cash flow ranks 11th among active QB contracts, right behind Cam Newton, well ahead of Tyrod Taylor and Brock Osweiler.

The Redskins have reportedly offered Cousins a $20M/year long-term deal

This contract would rank him 13th among active quarterbacks, just ahead of Ryan Tannehill, just behind Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. Our $23.7M market valuation for Cousins would place him 4th, right where his current franchise tag stands. By playing on back to back franchise tags, his $22M AAV would rank him 5th.

A long-term deal is never as long as it looks

Generally speaking, most multi-year extensions are built with guarantees and bonuses that are paid within the first 2-3 years. Because of this, the cumulative cash payout is widely paid more attention to than the total value, or even average annual value of the contract by agents/players. To name a few, based on the structure of cash and dead cap:
Cam Newton: 3 years, $67M
Aaron Rodgers: 3 years, $60M
Russell Wilson: 3 years, $57M
Tyrod Taylor: 2 years, $40.5M, 3 years $54.1M
Brock Osweiler: 2 years, $37M

A deflated version of Andrew Luck’s contract makes sense

While his numbers have been outstanding, it’s hard to place logic in making Cousins the highest paid player in football (even though he’s pretty close as it is). However, the structure of Andrew Luck’s contract is both team & player friendly in nature in that it handed Luck a good chunk of money up front, then offers “rolling guarantees” the rest of the way. This means his base salaries & roster bonuses are not guaranteed until early in their respective league years. Andrew Luck’s $13M cash for 2017 doesn’t guarantee until March 13th this year.

While Cousin’s may not be a $25M per year, $57M in 2 years, $75M in 3 years candidate, by spreading out the money, the Redskins can keep Cousins in house & reduce their cap hits.

In other words, by going year to year with the tag, the Redskins have paid Cousins top 5 money, at nearly $22M per year, while essentially preserving an annual opt-out. It makes little to no sense for Kirk and his camp to accept anything below that $22M figure going forward.

We’ve laid out a deal that places Cousins right at our market valuation ($23.6M) across 5 years. It includes a $15M signing bonus, $27M in cash this year, and cumulative earnings of $45M over 2 years, and $66M over 3, top 10 in both regards. By applying rolling guarantees, you’ll notice the Dead Cap remains low on the backend of the contract, still allowing Washington to get out of the deal without a huge hit. The 2 year, $45M breakdown year essentially requires the Redskins to do what they’ve already done – again, and a 5 year $118M extension sounds a lot better in the papers.

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Article by: Michael Ginnitti

Managing Editor of Spotrac