Well, one final Kirk Cousins-contract-heavy edition of the Mailbag. This time next week, we’ll know if the two sides have managed to reach an agreement, or if the quarterback will remain on the franchise tag for the 2017 season.
Until then, we will tackle that topic and a few others as training camp approaches.
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 “Mailbag question,” and we’ll do it all over again next week.
If a long-term deal is not in place for Kirk by the upcoming deadline, it would seem that Kirk would be an expensive rental for the year. Next year would prove prohibitive in terms of paying him $30-plus-million while looking to sign several players whose contracts are also up then.
Given that the team now appears to be building up the defense and running game, how much of a step back would the Skins take if we had to go with Colt McCoy or Nate Sudfeld in ’18? Lastly, do you think that negotiations have been impacted by the team’s belief that they can find a QB in next year’s draft with higher upside than Kirk?
— Cedric Burton
It’s really hard to say. Injuries have prevented us from seeing just how good McCoy can be for an extended stretch. The Redskins won two of the five 2014 games in which McCoy played. But he hasn’t seen a lot of action since. McCoy certainly knows the offense and has done some good things. He has the smarts to know how to keep a defense off balance, and he does well going off script and having to improvise. There are plays that he can probably make that Cousins hasn’t in the past, because McCoy is more of a gambler. As a result, he also commits turnovers that Cousins would not. But again, durability has been the big issue. And McCoy takes more sacks than Cousins, so that threatens his health, and also doesn’t keep the offense moving at as an efficient pace as the Cousins-led unit. If he can stay healthy, the Redskins probably could hover around the .500, I suppose. But again, because he doesn’t have a significant body of work, it’s hard to say.
It’s even harder to predict how Nate Sudfeld would do; he’s never played an NFL game. He looked very much like a project in limited action last preseason. Even if he’s improved, there would still be a significant drop-off from Cousins to Sudfeld.
It really is important to lock up Cousins with a long-term deal, because there’s no guarantee that either backup can ensure a seamless transition, and it’s definitely not a lock that Washington will be able to land an ideal replacement in the draft. You would hope the Redskins’ decision-makers understand this.
People keep obsessing about Kirk’s deal, and I’m sick of it! We’ve got a number of other players on the final year of their deals. What are you hearing on some of those guys such as Bashaud Breeland, Chris Thompson, Spencer Long? Are any of them or their agents talking with the team? What kinds of deals are they looking for?
— Alex Zeese, Washington D.C.
I haven’t gotten wind of any contract extension talks with those players yet. Morgan Moses was the key guy they wanted to extend of that bunch, and the Redskins did just that. This is a big year for Breeland and Long. Breeland showed promise in his first two seasons and then had a rocky third season. I think the Redskins want to see if he can rebound before they commit to giving him a lucrative contract extension. (The market value for a cornerback is around $14.7 million). Remember, they have drafted cornerbacks early in the draft the past two years (Kendall Fuller in 2016, Fabian Moreau this year), and it would be more affordable if one of those guys emerges as a potential starter for the 2018 season or both do.
Long is entering his second season as a center after taking over for Kory Lichtensteiger last season. Coaches are encouraged by his progress. But there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency to lock him up long term right now. He too will have a chance to earn an extension if he plays well. And the same goes for Thompson. Coaches like him, but because he was a restricted free agent this past offseason, the team extended him a one-year tender rather than worry about signing him to a multiyear deal.
Could you clarify some issues regarding Josh Norman’s contract? Some online charts show that at the end of the upcoming contract year, Norman and the Redskins come to a “crossroads” where he or the team can opt out of the deal; if this does not occur, would the team be on the hook for the balance of the deal — an amount well over 30 million dollars? And would it be prudent to pay such money to a player who would be over 30 on a team with some other young stars in need of new deals? Perhaps Norman, too, is in a “prove year” with the Redskins?
— Emmett Mosley
Yes, the contract is structured so the Redskins can get out of the deal following this season. For the first three years of his contract, Norman would make an average of $17 million per season. The salary for the 2018 season becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year, so the Redskins will have to make their decision fairly quickly. If the Redskins do decide to keep Norman, his salary is $11.5 million for 2019 and $12.5 million for 2020. Those figures currently would rank top 10 for a cornerback, but the market will increase every year, so it’s possible that could equate to decent value for a talented cornerback. It all just depends on how productive Norman is. So, this is a pretty big year for Norman to prove that he does indeed rank among the top corners in the year and that the Redskins would be wise to hold on to him beyond this year.
The last time I checked the Redskins’ roster, we were stacked at tight end and wide receivers, at a comfortable level with what we have at quarterback (backups included), very content at offensive line. We are also very loaded at LB, packed with above average talent at CB and steady at safety. The defensive line seems to be promising too! With the team being reasonably restocked going into this season, would you say this is the best talent-wise that this team has had in a long, long time? If that’s the case, would you say anything less than a 10-6 record this season would be a disappointment?
— Olufemi Adepoju
I don’t think I would go as far as you in the optimism department. Washington’s offense will produce as it has the past two years, and I think they’ll do better in the red zone because of the additions of Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson and because of another year of comfort on Cousins’s part. But questions remain about the defense.
Free agent additions Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain should help, but neither served as a full-time starter during his career until last year. Top rookies defensive end Jonathan Allen and outside linebacker Ryan Anderson have promise. But they also have a lot to learn. I’m not sure who will start opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Is it Preston Smith, who had a rough year last season and badly needs to rebound? Junior Gallette, who’s coming off back-to-back Achilles’ tendon tears? Anderson? Inside linebacker needs some sorting out as well. Will Compton, Mason Foster and Zach Brown all will battle for two starting jobs. Cornerback seems fairly solid, and the addition of D.J. Swearinger at free safety should definitely strengthen the secondary. But no one knows how quickly Su’a Cravens will adjust in his transition to strong safety. Washington’s defense has to do better both against the run and in the pass-rushing department. If it doesn’t, then we’re looking at another year of hovering around .500. Let’s get through training camp and the preseason before making bold predictions.