It’s 90 degrees outside but, for the Redskins purposes with Kirk Cousins, very little has changed since March.
Six days remain until the deadline for Cousins to sign a long-term deal with the Redskins. It has been 133 days since Washington tendered Cousins the $24 million franchise offer on the last day of February. It was a long-shot that a long-term deal would be reached then, and it’s a long-shot that one will be now.
The issue here is one of finance, something colder and harder than team-building or glory-chasing or any of the more storybook factors used to discuss NFL business.
Over the weekend, at his annual football camp in Holland, Mich., Cousins told several local TV stations that he cares about much more than making top dollar.
“I never want to play football thinking about money,” Cousins said via WAVY.com. “I think that you get in trouble doing that. I put my confidence in the Lord, in my faith. If I’m going to build my life [based] on money shame on me. That’s not where I draw my security from, never should be. My parents didn’t raise me that way.”
Cousins is sincere, and he certainly cares about his job for reasons other than his salary. But he’s not playing football right now, he’s negotiating a contract. Rather, his agent is negotiating a contract on his behalf.
Cousins again, to WMXI-TV in Western Michigan: “I hired my agent to do his job. I’ve got to go play football and throw touchdown passes and help our team win. I’ve got plenty to work on there so I’ll let my agent do his job.”
Mike McCartney’s job as Cousins’ agent is to think about money. It doesn’t matter if he’s representing Mother Teresa or Rod Tidwell, he’s supposed to get the best deal for his client. Cousins has deep trust in McCartney and has put this process in McCartney’s hands. Agents don’t like hometown discounts.
The value of the $24 million franchise tag this year and $28 or $34.4 million options next year (transition or franchise tag) gives McCartney plenty of leverage. Because of those guarantees, Cousins’ price starts around $55 million guaranteed at signing. The Redskins would rather not pay that much for Cousins.
This is why there isn’t a lot of movement and why a deal remains unlikely – there just isn’t anywhere to go if neither side is willing to dramatically change its goals. One factor, and one that’s hard to gauge, is how the Redskins feel about Colt McCoy or next year’s class of quarterbacks. If they feel like they have no viable plan B, then perhaps they’ll blow Cousins out of the water with an 11th-hour deal that would represent a revolutionary step in quarterback pay. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Team President Bruce Allen would hear about that from the other owners, though, and neither of them wants an earful about how they gave labor a win at the next set of league meetings.
It’s possible that, with money on the table and a family on the way at home, Cousins could decide he’d rather secure his future now than go through this process again. He’ll be gaining a large amount of wealth in any case. Perhaps Cousins is a junior economist and the time value of money is very important to him. That’s not how an agent would look at a deal, though, and this is an agent-driven process on Cousins’ end.
Again, this is the same impasse that existed all along. There has been plenty of talk since then, as well as sincere courtship of Cousins on the Redskins part. Snyder has gotten involved. Allen has met face-to-face with McCartney. Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams said publicly that the Redskins want Cousins long-term in “the worst way.”
None of that eclipses the money problem but, even in the absence of a deal, goodwill isn’t meaningless. There were some old wounds to be healed by a team that treated Cousins like a second-class citizen during his first years in Washington. Signs from the spring have been encouraging.
Maybe enough things could break right this year that the Redskins and Cousins could find themselves closer together next season. Most players love coach Jay Gruden. A fantastic offensive line is in place. Something could go wrong in San Francisco. It can’t hurt to have everybody like each other.
“We’ve got our two tackles locked up, we feel very good about our offensive line,” Eric Schaffer, Redskins senior vice president of football operations, said last month. “We feel very good about our offensive skill players. So we feel like there’s certainly a lot to offer and we’re a good place to play for quarterbacks.”
That is a lot to offer, and those things certainly matter. For a deal to get done, though, the Redskins are going to need to offer money, and a lot more of it than they are inclined to. That’s why a long-term deal is, and always was, unlikely.
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