It’s funny, the draft has come and gone, the Redskins have exciting rookies to keep tabs on, but one thing still continues to loom large, and that’s the uncertain future of Kirk Cousins.
As Jay Gruden said yesterday, the quarterback is under contract for 2017, and that’s all he as the coach can worry about. But Bruce Allen, Daniel Snyder, Kirk Cousins’s agent, and of course all of the outsiders can keep focusing on the uncertainty.
It’s getting kind of tiring, but I get it. Quarterback = most important position. And so, we talk about important stuff in the Mailbag, and of course, that means, we’re again talking about Kirk Cousins.
We do talk about a few other things as well. And we’ll get to them. But first, we’ll dive back into the QB talk.
Thanks, as always, for taking part in the Mailbag, and keep those questions coming. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line of “Mailbag question,” and we’ll do it all over again next Tuesday.
But first, here we go!
Mike, why do you seem obsessed with the Redskins paying Cousins $25 million dollars a year when he has never won a playoff game?
The Ravens paid Flacco a ridiculous amount of money and have not been anything but .500 or less since, the Saints paid Brees with the same results, Andrew Luck same thing. Why can’t you understand when you pay one guy that much money you can’t build a contending team?
— Steve Weaver
I’m not at all obsessed with the Redskins paying Kirk Cousins $25 million a year. Maybe you, or your fellow fans, who ask me about this constantly are, but there’s no obsession here. I promise you, I’ll get paid the same amount, I’ll have the same bills, same responsibilities both at work and at home, regardless of whether Cousins gets paid.
But let me ask you this: Why are you so opposed to a guy being paid what he’s worth to do his job? We all want that, right? We all keep tabs on what the people in our respective fields make, and we want to make sure that we’re not getting shorted by the man. If we feel like we’re productive and valuable to our company, then we expect to be compensated adequately, and if we’re not happy with what we’re making, then we look for new jobs. Kirk Cousins just wants to be paid what he’s worth.
He never said, “Pay me $25 million or else.” He just wants to receive a contract offer that’s fair. He’s coming off two seasons in which he played like one of the top half of the quarterbacks in the league. He wants to be paid as such. The market says that Cousins should make in the neighborhood of $20 million to $24 million. The Redskins have low-balled him twice. But they’re so silly that instead of giving him the fair-market value offer of around $19 million per year over four years with $44 million guaranteed as they had a chance to when the Cousins camp proposed that in 2016, they used the franchise tag on him twice and have guaranteed they will pay him $44 million guaranteed over two years ($20 million last year, $24 million this year) instead of spreading that out over four.
So, say you had a great year in your job, and your boss said, “Okay, great year, great review, but you don’t deserve a raise despite being so productive for us and being one of the best at what you do.” You wouldn’t feel too good about that. You’d figure out a way to improve your financial situation. Cousins has the benefit of the franchise tag, which set him up nicely. And next year, unless the Redskins get serious and show him respect and appreciation, he’ll go find a job elsewhere that pays him what he’s worth, just like you would. Or, just like any smart, self-respecting person would.
So, if you can understand that and put yourself in his shoes — okay, I could never imagine what it’s like to command that type of salary — but translating it to our everyday lives, you can understand his position. And if you consider the fact that the Redskins would blow it at quarterback (where they’ve lacked stability for nearly 25 years) if they lose Cousins, then you can understand why fans are really concerned.
Do you find it at all interesting that players voted Kirk Cousins 70th overall this year in the NFL Top 100? Considering this should he be one of the highest-paid players in the league? Wouldn’t you think he should be a bit higher than 70?
— Rob Fox, Lincolnton, NC
Nah, I don’t put much stock in that. Sure, it’s great to make the list, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a brilliant/entertaining idea by the NFL Network to poll players on the views of their peers. But really, it’s just that, a popularity contest. Cousins ranked 85th last year. The quarterbacks ahead of him on the top 100 list were Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson (all inside the top 20), and then Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, Blake Bortles, Alex Smith (four spots ahead of Cousins). Cousins wound up throwing for more yards than any of them except Brees, who led the league with 5,208 yards. The second-highest passer was Matt Ryan, who didn’t even make last year’s top 100 list. Matt Stafford ranked seventh in passing last year and didn’t make the list either. Joe Flacco was seventh and didn’t make last year’s list. So, really, it’s wins, losses and statistics that determine a quarterback’s worth — not his peers.
So after paying the rookies, where do the Redskins stand salary cap-wise? Do you foresee any readjustments or contract renegotiations forthcoming? And, finally, who might be that salary cap casualty vet player who could be let go to open more cap space?
— Emmett Mosley
After paying the rookies, the Redskins have roughly $4.9 million in cap space. Remember, during the offseason, it’s only the top 51 salaries that count, and those 51 combine for $171,616,591.
Cost-saving cuts usually come just before the start of the league year/free agency. So, given that the Redskins are under the cap, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of moves. If the team was desperate to save some money, they already would have possibly restructured or cut veterans such as guard Shawn Lauvao, who counts for $5 million against the cap and would save the team $4 million with his release, and/or safety DeAngelo Hall ($4.25 million cap savings). But coaches and team officials still see value in both. This isn’t to say that the team won’t make some cuts during offseason practices after seeing how some of the younger players look, as they did a couple years ago when they cut guard Chris Chester and cornerback Tracy Porter in the first week of offseason practices. But we’ll see. Coaches speak highly of both veterans, and for now, no one has proven themselves more capable than either, so they remain in the mix.
The only cuts as of late have been Tuesday’s releases of little-known players, linebacker Khairi Fortt, tight end Wes Saxton and cornerback Tharold Simon, which made room for the signings of tight end Manasseh Garner and cornerback Tevin Homer, who both took part in the rookie minicamp as tryout players.
We Skins fans love to get our hopes up about potentially big impact rookies, only for these guys to endure the normal highs and lows of adjusting to the NFL. So before we anoint Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson as franchise cornerstones, who are a few young non-rookies who could finally put it all together this season? Guys who haven’t quite broken out, but seem poised to take a next step? Thanks.
— Brandon Katz
It’s really hard to say authoritatively without having seen these guys on the field yet. I’ll start to get a better idea once the offseason practices get going next week. So far, the team has just had conditioning and position drill sessions, and none of those are open to the media. But starting next week, they’ll begin the offseason phase that features three straight weeks of three days of voluntary practices, followed by the mandatory full-squad minicamp in mid-June.
But if I had to name a few, to keep an eye on, I’d list Josh Doctson, Arie Kouandjio and Preston Smith. Doctson, of course, hasn’t been fully healthy since this time last year. Even in the two games he appeared in last season, he admitted he wasn’t really right. Now, he’s back to running routes pain-free, and he will have a chance to earn a key role on offense. I want to see what Kouandjio has to offer because he potentially could challenge Lauvao for that starting left guard spot. Now entering his third season, Kouandjio has worked hard, hoping for a chance to become a starter. He’s filled in pretty well the last two years. But he still needs to become a little more effective. We’ll see if the offseason has brought some improvement to his game. And Smith is entering his third season, but finds himself on the hot seat after a really inconsistent 2016 campaign. Now Washington has drafted another player at his position — Anderson — and so Smith will have to work hard to prove last year was just a slump, and not a clear indication of his capabilities.
Which linebacker do you see as starters? The incumbents or the newly signed guys?
— Reggie Skinner
Obviously, Ryan Kerrigan, and initially Preston Smith on the outside, just because Ryan Anderson could take some lumps early on. But things could change as he becomes more comfortable on this level. Inside linebacker will be really interesting. You’ve got Will Compton, Mason Foster, free agent addition Zach Brown and Martrell Spaight all battling for two spots. This competition will play out over the course of the offseason practices and training camp. I’d anticipate Compton and Brown, but that’s without having seen a practice (next week).
Seems like a promising, young running back stable. Right now I see Matt Jones heading for the exit. Who are your likely four: Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson and ___?
— Rohit Raghavan
The Redskins do have some interesting options now. Kelley will likely open up as the starter, but I expect Perine will get a lot of chances, and very well could wind up overtaking the second-year pro. Chris Thompson is a staple as the third-down back, and that would leave Jones, Keith Marshall and Mack Brown to vie for the final spot. Brown showed some promise late last season. But I don’t think Marshall can be counted out. He has great speed and is one of the fastest players on the team. However, his vision and decision-making held him in check last year during offseason practices, training camp and his limited preseason action before getting hurt. We’ll see if he has learned anything while he sat in meetings with coaches, watching film of the veterans. Jones does indeed have a lot to prove this offseason. His biggest advocate was Scot McCloughan, and now it’s all on Jones to show coaches he belongs and that he has figured out how to take care of the football and make faster decisions and lower his shoulder and run opponents over instead of slowing himself down and getting stuck with all those dancing stutter-steps.
Mike, what’s the probability that we re-sign Bashaud Breeland? We drafted Kendall Fuller in the third round last year, Fabian Moreau in the third round this year, and signed Norman last season. We’re investing in the cornerback position, and it looks like Breeland is expendable. What will Breeland’s contract demands be?
— Josh Edney, Brooklyn, N.Y.
It really all depends on how well Breeland plays this year. He has the heat on him for sure, especially after seeing his team draft more cornerbacks the last two years. He has had his share of ups and downs, and the Redskins like him, but I get the sense they would prefer someone that’s more consistent with his play and steady emotionally. But much of Breeland’s success hinges on his relationship with his position coach. He was most promising under Raheem Morris as a rookie in 2014. He did a decent job the next year as well, but he really clashed with Perry Fewell last year, and believe me, he wasn’t the only one. The reason Breeland finished strong last year was because assistant defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant began working with Breeland one-on-one and Fewell backed off. We’ll see what kind of a relationship Breeland develops with new defensive backs coaches Torrian Gray and James Rowe.
It’s hard to say what kind of a deal Breeland can get. Obviously, he’d like a handsome deal, but he has to earn that with his play. Can he get a four-year, $23.5 million deal similar to the deal Brandon Carr got from Dallas, or the four-year, $17 million deal Captain Munnerlyn got from Minnesota? Or, will he have to go with a one-year, $7 million deal like Prince Amukamara got from Chicago, or the one-year, $5 million deal like Morris Claiborne got from the Jets? We’ll see.