While we await the full details of Derek Carr’s contract extension we know enough to see what effect the deal will have on the Redskins’ efforts to negotiate a new deal with Kirk Cousins.
The Carr extension has been anticipated for months. The 2014 second-round pick was going into the final year of his contract. There were strong incentives for both sides to get a deal done. Absent a deal, Carr was looking at going through the risks of the NFL season on a salary $1.1 million. The Raiders faced starting the Redskins-Cousins style franchise tag dance with Carr in 2018.
It also seemed inevitable that Carr would become the highest-paid player in the game. He got there with a deal that has an average annual value (AAV) of $25 million per year in new money, $271,000 per year more than Andrew Luck got a year ago. That aspect of the deal, therefore, will not have much of an impact on Cousins. Since an AAV of around $25 million was expected, it has been baked into any talks that have taken place so far.
The Redskins may point out that Carr’s deal was an extension that leaves his 2017 salary of $1.1 million intact. That means that Carr is committed to the Raiders for six years for a total of $126.1 million in compensation, an average of a shade over $21 million per year. If the team does that, however, Mike McCartney, Cousins’ agent, likely will laugh it off. The difference is leverage. Cousins is guaranteed $24 million this year compared to Carr’s $1.1 million salary prior to the extension. The starting points are apples and oranges.
However, the Redskins could legitimately look elsewhere for a point that might work in their favor. Carr’s deal contains only (only?) $40 million fully guaranteed at signing and $70 million in total guarantees, counting injury provisions. Compare that to Luck getting $47 million fully guaranteed at signing and a total of $87 million in guarantees.
So, the bar for guaranteed money in a big QB deal went down, not up. The Redskins will add this into their calculations in their offer.
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But, again, you can’t forget the $24 million in fully guaranteed money that Cousins already has in hand. He isn’t going to agree to a multiyear deal that pays him only (only?) an additional $16 million in full guarantees.
While it’s good to have comparable contracts to use in negotiations, each situation is unique. Cousins’ leverage sets him apart from Carr so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him surpass the Raider in terms of total and guaranteed money even though Carr is younger and generally thought to be a notch or so better than Cousins.
The Redskins will try to grasp on to any data point they can to justify paying Cousins as little as they can. But that might save them a few hundred thousand here and there. If they want to keep Cousins they are going to have to be prepared to pay a lot of money and guarantee a lot of it up front.