Check Mate: Cousins’ Redskins future looks even murkier than ever


The latest chapter of the Kirk Cousins Saga finally came to a close, this week. Monday passed with him and the Washington Redskins no closer to a long-term contract. Instead, for the second time, he will play under the franchise tag.

The Redskins find themselves footnotes in another bit of ignominious history: no quarterback has ever played two seasons under the franchise tag until Cousins. It doesn’t happen because it’s generally considered an inefficient way to deploy cap space.

The two sides will re-convene next year, to do this all over again. It’s a disappointing outcome for many Redskins fans hoping for resolution, but hardly an unexpected one. The 28-year-old quarterback has unprecedented leverage.

Here’s how Cousins’ salaries have progressed, throughout his career:

2015: $824,007
2016: $19,953,000
2017: $23,943,600
2018: ?

That’s quite a nice escalation. With $23 million already in the bank, this season, Cousins had little incentive to settle. The longer he waits, the larger his market value will be.

The team released a statement disclosing terms of a contract they purportedly offered the Cousins camp. It featured a record $53 million guaranteed at signing, with $72 guaranteed for injury. It allows them to claim that they offered the quarterback a record-setting contract.

However, the offer was hardly as rosy from Cousins’ perspective. As it stands, he could eclipse that $53 million threshold if he plays under the franchise tag again, next season. And then, he could hit the open market as a true, unrestricted free agent.

That’s a doomsday scenario for Washington faithful. So, why didn’t the Redskins throw down a Godfather offer to the man they proclaim the face of the franchise? Sure, it would be have been costly, somewhere in the neighborhood of $135 million over five years, with $85-90 million guaranteed.

However, it is likely Cousins will end up getting that contract from someone, at some point. The Redskins run the risk of that figure going up even more. Their lowball-offer, combined with their subsequent releasing of terms to the media makes it evident they are talking out of both sides of their mouth: We want him…but not that much.

Whatever the front office’s plan is, it’s clear they’ve set themselves up to display palms with as little blood on them as possible. It is unlikely they would pay the $34.47 million bill for another franchise tag.

In the more-likely scenario, Bruce Allen and company will attempt to apply the lower-figured transition tag to Cousins, next season. If another team blows the doors down with one of those previously-mentioned Godfather-offers, Cousins walks, and Allen can stand up at the podium with a straight face and paint the quarterbacks with as many greedy adjectives as he sees fit.

That might be their master plan. But, why would they be so eager to be rid of a guy who, in the past two seasons has thrown for over 9,000 yards?

NFL economics value potential over performance. That’s why the Chicago Bears will pay Mike Glennon $16 million dollars, this season. Glennon, who hasn’t started a game in three years, has just 4,100 passing yards to his name.

It’s the same reason why the Seattle Seahawks once traded a third-round pick to San Diego for Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst, naturally, had not attempted a single pass at that point in his career.

The reasoning seems to be that the less tape that exists on a guy, the greater the variables for future performance are. While they haven’t looked like the second-coming of Peyton Manning, they haven’t proven that they are NOT Manning either.

And, that’s the problem with Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins. Like a fading relationship, they’ve simply seen too much tape on each other.

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