Kirk Cousins’ Contract: What Could Negotiations Be Based Off Of?

Oct 23, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warms up before the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins should be looking to extend Kirk Cousins in the near future. Here is a look at some potential contract comparisons.

Since coming back from the bye week, talks about a Kirk Cousins extension have escalated quickly. According to a piece by NFL Network’s Chris Wesseling, many are expecting Cousins to get at least $20 million per year, and that number is fluctuating based off of the way he plays.

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Needless to say, anything can happen between now and the end of the regular season. Still, it seems like Cousins is a good bet to earn a hefty raise at the end of the season. There is not much quarterback talent in the NFL right now, and he looks to be a rising star.

The Redskins are going to have to do their due diligence and figure out how to sign him. At the same time, Cousins will push back at the negotiation tables. They will likely try to model the deal after one that already exists, and here is a look at some models that may come up in discussions from both the teams and the media.

Nov 3, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls out the snap during the second half of a football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The Falcons won 43-28. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Washington’s Ideal Contract: Matt Ryan’s Deal

I like this comparison for a multitude of reasons. The first is that both Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan were in the fifth year of their NFL career’s when they were up for a huge contract extension. Both had some experience, and though Ryan had more starts under his belt, his numbers are surprisingly similar to Cousins.

In the two seasons prior to his contract extension, Ryan went 23-9 for the Falcons and led them on a couple of playoff runs. He completed 65 percent of his passes during that span and threw 61 touchdowns compared to 26 interceptions. He was the catalyst for a strong offense. Ryan had a strong group of receivers to work with including Julio Jones and Roddy White, and thus his impact was similar to that of Cousins. He made a great offense function at a high level.

Comparatively, Cousins had gone 15-11-1 as a starter, albeit his team has a slightly weaker defense than the Falcons did at that time. He has been hyper accurate with a 69 percent complete rate and a 49-18 touchdown to interception ratio. He has brought the Redskins back to relevance and will be looking to bring them to the playoffs for two straight seasons.

In terms of money, Ryan signed a 5 year deal worth $103 million, per Spotrac. I think that the Redskins should use a similar blueprint when negotiating with Cousins. This would pay Cousins an average of $20.75 million and they can negotiate from there. Though Cousins has the leverage, this type of contract is a good starting point for the team as it is one to work around.

Nov 20, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) warms up passing the ball before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins’ Ideal Contract: Andrew Luck’s Deal

Andrew Luck is currently the most expensive quarterback in the NFL. He is scheduled to make an average of $24.6 million over the course of the next 5 years, per Spotrac. The strong armed quarterback is considered to be the franchise savior for the Indianapolis Colts, and the team had no choice but to pay him.

This is eerily similar to the situations the Redskins will be in with Cousins. Granted, Cousins does not possess as much raw talent as Luck does, but he still has been the Redskins’ main reason for success. Cousins is also just a year older than Luck, so he does have the factor of youth still on his side.

Numerically, Cousins actually has outperformed Luck over the two years prior to their extensions. Luck has posted a record of 13-10 while completing less than 60 percent of his passes for 55 touchdowns and 28 picks. Luck has had to deal with the consequences of playing with a weak supporting cast, and it cost him. Still, his record proves the importance of the quarterback position. The Colts would likely be a bottom tier team without him.

Cousins’ team should use this as their top contract comparison. They could justify getting Kirk that kind of money, as he has performed on that level and franchising Cousins a second time would cost roughly as much for the year as signing him to a similar contract. The franchise tag would be valued at $23.94 million, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport in the Wesseling piece. That could give Cousins leverage, but I doubt Cousins gets this kind of deal. Still, expect it to be mentioned in the negotiation process.

Nov 20, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Unlikely Contract Comparison: Joe Flacco’s Deal

When I first read reports about the contract Joe Flacco signed in 2013, I was speechless. I had considered to Flacco to be the epitome of mediocrity, and he was given a ridiculous deal. Flacco signed a 6 year deal worth $120 million (per Spotrac). He would be paid about $20 million a year, until he re-negotiated the last three years of his contract to pay $22 million each year.

Flacco’s pay was based solely off of his performance in the playoffs. In the 2012 postseason, Flacco led the Ravens on an improbable Super Bowl run, where he posted 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the postseason. Many credited Flacco with carrying the Ravens to the big game, but that was far from the case.

Flacco just caught fire at the right time. In the regular season, he was average. He was lucky that he had a strong supporting cast around him, on offense and defense, to help him get through the Super Bowl.

Because of these factors, I feel that this is not a comparative contract. Neither side would really be able to argue for this contract very well. Cousins would have issues saying he deserves this kind of money without a Super Bowl ring. In turn, the Redskins would have problems justifying why a mediocre quarterback is getting more than Cousins. I do not think that this contract will be mentioned much in negotiations, as there are far better and less complex templates out there.

Nov 20, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs on the field during pre game warm ups prior to the Packers

Likely Contract Agreement For Kirk Cousins: Aaron Rodgers’ Deal

In terms of framework, no deal seems to suit Kirk Cousins better than the Aaron Rodgers deal. Per Spotrac, Rodgers signed a 5 year, $110 million contract back in 2013 to be the Packers quarterback long term. Since that point, Green Bay has been a perennial playoff contender and Rodgers has been one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league.

Rodgers’ numbers are significantly better than Cousins over his career, but Rodgers had been in the league for eight years when he signed that huge deal. He had time to develop under Brett Favre, while Cousins was thrown into the fire after the Robert Griffin III experiment failed.

In fact, looking at Rodgers’ first two seasons as a starter, he went 17-15, completed 64 percent of his passes, and had 58 touchdowns to 20 interceptions. The numbers are similar to Cousins, so perhaps there is hope that he could take a next step. I still believe Rodgers is a superior player, and he also did win a Super Bowl prior to the contract, but Cousins definitely has room for improvement.

That said, I have a feeling this contract is going to be the middle ground for both sides when contract talks are done. I think that Cousins will consider himself as potentially comparable to Rodgers with some work. He will then agree to a deal worth roughly $22 million, especially if almost 50 percent is guaranteed. Unless, of course, he leads the team deep into the playoffs.

In turn, the Redskins will bank on his potential to become the face of the franchise while not grossly overpaying for his services. This deal would cause some obstacles for the team, but they could navigate them with Kirk at the helm.

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