Redskins Insider JP Finlay and the Redskins Talk Podcast crew joined our Racing Presidents Podcast for a topical crossover debate involving two of the most polarizing free agents in D.C. sports history: Kirk Cousins and Bryce Harper.
Click play in the embedded podcast player below to listen to the entire podcast.
As the Bryce Harper free agency saga continues to drag on, it's fair to wonder whether his free agency has been more annoying to follow as a D.C. sports supporter than former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins free agency.
This past weekend, 106.7 the Fan program director Chris Kinard posted a Twitter poll asking fans which contract situation was more annoying to deal with.
NBC Sports Washington's J.P. Finlay agreed with the results, and wrote Monday that Cousins' situation was far more annoying than Harper's.
Sorry, J.P. While the Cousins' contract saga was over a much longer period of time, Harper's situation has been the more annoying one.
The Rumors/Contract Styles
While Cousins' contract saga lasted far longer than Harper's, the team he was suiting up for on gameday was for the most part never in doubt. While the Redskins and Cousins were never able to agree on a long-term contract, the franchise tag in 2016 and 2017 confirmed Cousins would be a Redskins player for both of those seasons. The Redskins were the ones who ultimately decided to move on from Cousins, as they traded for Alex Smith six weeks before free agency began, marking when Cousins could sign with any team. There was a clear replacement for Cousins, and many could argue that at the time, Smith was even an upgrade over Cousins.
Bryce Harper's offseason has just been rumor after rumor. At this point, the saga has dragged on for so long, that many fans just want it to end. Harper turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract from the Nationals on the last day of the 2018 season, effectively positioning himself for what he envisioned of free agency with several teams bidding for him with contracts well over $300 million. Well, we're over four months into free agency, Spring Training has started, and only the Philadelphia Phillies have reportedly offered Harper over $300 million. Teams such as the Giants and Dodgers have become players in the race for Harper on a potential short-term deal, even after the Dodgers ruled themselves out weeks ago. Nationals owner Mark Lerner said just a few days ago that they haven't heard from Harper's camp in months, but would not necessarily close the door on bringing their superstar back, as Lerner said: "But there's always that, the door's cracked a little bit." There have been so many reports throughout the whole free agency process, with many contradicting one another, that even Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said he stopped paying attention to them.
The biggest free agent in years is still unsigned, and it this point, Nationals and baseball fans just want a decision. If Harper knew that free agency would end up the way it has, one has to think he may have accepted the Nationals original offer. The whole process has been a huge annoyance to all fans involved.
Impact of each player
Bryce Harper and Kirk Cousins are both very good at what they do. But Harper is a far better baseball player than Kirk Cousins is a quarterback. The numbers and accolades speak for themselves.
Harper has been the face of the Nationals franchise since he was drafted first overall in 2010, and especially after his impressive rookie year in 2012. In seven seasons with the Nationals, Harper is a six-time All-Star, has an MVP award under his belt, a silver slugger, the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year, and a home run derby champion. It's no coincidence that the Nationals made the playoffs for the first time in team history in 2012, the year Harper made his Major League debut. Harper has been the most feared hitter in the Nationals lineup for years, and been a vital part of a team that has won the NL East four of the last seven seasons. While the Nationals 2019 roster is prepared as best as possible to replace Harper's shoes, assuming he is signing elsewhere, his absence in the lineup will be significant.
Cousins was a solid NFL quarterback during his three-year run as the Redskins starter, but he was no where near an elite level. Cousins lone NFL accolade is a Pro Bowl selection in 2016, and he was not an original selection. He replaced Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who was partaking in the Super Bowl. Captain Kirk led the Redskins to just one playoff berth as a starter, which was in 2015. As soon the contract saga began, Cousins did not have a season with more than eight wins. He threw double digit interceptions in all three years as a starter, and never finished top-five in QBR.
Cousins was the main talk of the offseason for three straight years, but it was more about how rare it was for a quarterback to be under the franchise tag for two years and hit free agency, than it was about his quarterback play. Much of the attention was undeserved, looking back at it.
Eventual Landing Spot
While Harper remains a free agent, reports have come in that he is choosing between the Phillies, Dodgers, and the Giants. All three have plenty of recent history with the Nationals.
The Phillies, still the favorite to land Harper, are NL East foes with the Nationals, and arguably Washington's biggest competition for the division crown in 2019, even if they don't land Bryce. Should Harper choose the 'City of Brotherly Love,' Nationals fans would have to see their former superstar in rival colors at least 19 times a year, plus if they were to meet in the playoffs. Philadelphia has already added J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best catcher in baseball, this offseason, as well as Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen. Adding Harper would be the cherry on top to an excellent offseason for the Phillies.
The other two teams in the mix, the Dodgers and Giants, have both beaten the Nationals in the playoffs over the past five years. The Giants defeated the Nationals in the 2014 NLDS, and there was plenty of bad blood between the two teams, especially regarding Harper. In 2016, the Dodgers defeated the Nationals in the NLDS in a decisive 4-3 victory in Game 5. Both series losses were devastating for the Nationals, as there were many opportunities for the Nationals to prevail. None of these teams have any love from Nationals fans.
While Cousins ended up signing within the NFC, he didn't end up choosing a division rival like Harper may do. By signing with Minnesota, Cousins will only see the Redskins every fourth year, unless the Redskins and Vikings finish in the same place in their respective divisions. There is of course the chance that they meet in the playoffs, but rather unlikely, based on the current state of the two teams. The Vikings and Redskins do play each other in 2019, however.
Additionally, when Cousins signed with the Vikings, the Redskins had their quarterback of the next several years in place. Unfortunately, a devastating injury to Alex Smith significantly altered the Redskins quarterback position of the present and future, but at the time the move looked smart. Before Smith went down, the Redskins were 6-3 and led the NFC East. Meanwhile, Cousins' Vikings ended up missing the playoffs, just a year removed from making the NFC Championship game with Case Keenum as their starting quarterback.
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