PHILADELPHIA—Is Kirk Cousins the franchise quarterback the Redskins have been searching for?
In the last nine games Cousins sure has been acting like one in his first year as the designated starter. He has 20 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. In those nine games he has had a passer rating of under 100 just twice. The Redskins have gone 6-3 since Cousins heated up including a three-game winning streak that pushed them to the NFC East title.
What makes this interesting beyond the effects on the field is that Cousins is slated to be a free agent after the season. In other words, Cousins is making himself some money.
The Redskins are going to do everything they need to do to hang on to Cousins, up to and including locking him up for 2016 with the franchise tag. That would keep him in Washington for a one-year guaranteed salary of about $19 million.
Even though they will have the cap space to do it, they would rather not go down that road. The $19 million hits the salary cap all at once and that’s a pretty good chunk even out of a cap that is currently estimated to be over $150 million. And if a contract impasse still exists after the season, the tag for a second year is at 120 percent of the previous year’s salary. So then Cousins would be a $23 million quarterback in 2017.
The Redskins probably would like to have more of a track record to go on before deciding on just how big a payday to offer Cousins. They have seen this before. After the rookie season of Robert Griffin III the organization would have offered him the sun, moon, and stars if he was a pending free agent. But injuries and other issues reduced him to a shadow of his old self. If they give a big deal to a quarterback who doesn’t pan out they would have had a massive hole in the salary cap with not much production to show for it.
However, they don’t have more time to make a decision. He will play one more regular season game then one or maybe a few in the playoffs and then the organization will have all of the evidence it will have to figure it out.
It is hard to say what will happen right now. A playoff win or two would greatly enhance his value. The one prediction that can be made with confidence is that Cousins will not hit the open market. He will either be signed or tagged by the franchise designation deadline, which comes eight days prior to the start of free agency.