It's the decision and debate that won't go away, now or anytime soon. What is Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins worth? That's the current debate. Certainly, after he signs, the question will be "Is Cousins really worth that?" But his leverage will lead to him getting paid quite a bit of money -- yes, possibly more than a guy drafted No. 1 overall in the same 2012 class.
@john_keim any chance they pay Cousins Andrew Luck $$? They should, given that Carr will probably surpass that this summer. #jkmailbag
— Michael Collyer (@mcollyer71) February 10, 2017
John Keim: Yes, there’s a good chance he will get paid more than Andrew Luck, especially if the Redskins are intent on signing Cousins long term.
For background: Luck’s deal averages $24.594 million; he also received $87 million in guaranteed money. I don’t know that Cousins will receive that much in guaranteed money -- it was $47 million fully guaranteed at the time of signing -- but the average per year? If he signs a long-term deal, that number has to be in play for a couple of reasons.
Here’s the thing, as Joel Corry (former agent who now works for CBS Sports) told me this past week: Even if Cousins tops Luck, that doesn’t mean he’ll enter next season as the highest-paid quarterback. Actually, by then he could be fourth. There’s a chance Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr all get new deals. Each one would top Luck, too. Again, this isn’t about who’s better but rather about the position they play, a rising salary cap, timing and leverage.
If Cousins signs before those others, there’s no way he’ll end up as the highest-paid. If others sign before him, the price tag inches higher. You can make a strong case he shouldn’t be the highest-paid of this group no matter when he signs. But Cousins owns the leverage. The Redskins control whether or not he returns through the franchise tag.
Also, Cousins and his agent, Mike McCartney, are well aware of their leverage. They know if the Redskins don’t make a strong offer, Cousins will either be allowed to hit the open market or receive the franchise tag. The tag number is approximately $24 million. Any deal must average that amount to entice him to sign. Why? Because Cousins’ side also knows that if he’s tagged by the March 1 deadline, the 2018 tag would be $34.5 million, a figure no team would pay. So he’d be entering unrestricted free agency, where his deal could be a lot higher (assuming he plays well, of course).
At that point, if you’re Cousins, would you really re-sign with a team that tagged you twice? If they’re not sold, then that’s their right. But it’s why the price tag is a high one. And it's why this decision won't be an easy one for some in the organization. Yeah, that can lead to a little stress.
The Redskins can always tag Cousins, draft a quarterback high in the spring and develop him. Or hope that San Francisco, under new coach Kyle Shanahan, will make a strong trade offer. If Cousins hits the open market next month, he’d likely have multiple choices, starting with the 49ers. That, too, would drive the price.
You might think it’s crazy that Cousins could be paid more than Luck, the first pick in the 2012 draft, the same year Cousins went in the fourth round. But it’s not far-fetched.
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