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What does Kirk Cousins' late-season swoon do to his contract value?

What does Kirk Cousins' late-season swoon do to his contract value?

I wouldn’t want to play poker with Kirk Cousins.

When the pending free agent quarterback was asked on Sunday night if he wanted to return to the Redskins in 2017 he said, well, nothing.

“It’s really not my decision to make,” said Cousins. “They chose to tag me and the same is true this year, so if they don’t choose to tag me then I think that question is answered at that point, but right now the ball’s not in my court.”

The part about it not being his decision to make at this point in time is not accurate. Since the Redskins’ season ended at about 7:30 p.m. on Sunday he has been free to negotiate with the team. He could sign a new contract this afternoon.

Of course, that’s not realistic. It will take time for a deal to get hammered out. But Cousins could instruct his agent to negotiate the best deal he possibly can with the Redskins and get it done prior to the March 1 deadline for teams to designate franchise players. There are risks involved in waiting that are outlined below.

And perhaps he has set the gears in motion for a new deal with Washington. Cousins has thrived in Jay Gruden’s offense and the number of teams that have systems that cater to his strengths is limited. The appeal of sticking with what has worked over starting over with a new coach in a new system at the age of 29 has to be strong.

But Cousins has no reason to tip his hand right now. By keeping a neutral public stance he leaves the impression that he’d be just as happy to stay or go. Taking that stance is straight out of Negotiations 101.

One thing that Cousins has to consider is the risk of taking steps back on the field. In 2015, when the team needed him to come on strong down the stretch he delivered. In their last five games of the season when the team had to go on a run to make the playoffs he posted a passer rating of over 100 in each game and the Redskins went 4-1. This year the team needed a similar run in the last five games and Cousins had passer ratings in the 70’s in three of those games. The Redskins lost all three and they missed the playoffs. Here is a more detailed comparison:

The difference is stark. Last year he broke most of the team’s major single-season passing records and it felt like he accomplished a lot. This year, he broke his own records but given the way he finished it feels more like he compiled empty stats.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that the Redskins shouldn’t do what they can to try to get him under contract. This is not a reason to put forth a lowball offer (again).

But Cousins needs to tread carefully. If the Redskins tag him again and his late-season passer rating hangs around the mid-80’s again and he throws one touchdown and three picks (including the final, fatal one) in two critical home games in games where they were solid favorites he may find himself with a much lower value than he has now. He could be well advised to get as much as he can now in case he suffers from another late-season swoon.

Now, it’s not like Cousins will have to settle for minimum salary if he plays on the tag in 2017 and he does stumble in crunch time in December. Given the shortage of quarterbacks in the league, his performance could drop off significantly and some team out there would be willing to sign him to a five-year deal making at least $18-$20 million per year in 2018. Perhaps he would be comfortable rejecting a deal worth, say, $22 million per year knowing that the furthest he can fall would still have him near the very top of income earners in the country. That’ a nice cushion to have.

The only member of the Redskins organization who has spoken on Cousins is head coach Jay Gruden.

“I don’t know what Kirk has to do as a quarterback to prove that he belongs in the National Football League as a starter,” he said after the Giants game. “I think he had a great year.”

Gruden, however, doesn’t write the checks. He can lobby Scot McCloughan, Bruce Allen, and Dan Snyder to get a deal done but that’s all he can do.

This is in the very early stages. But decisions need to start taking shape. That franchise tag deadline is just 57 days away and the clock is ticking.

MORE REDSKINS: Ex-agent says 'Skins doubt Cousins, which'll hurt his deal

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

In case you missed it

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Titans. 

Week 16 December 22 or 23, Nissan Stadium (the date of the game will be determined no later than Week 8 in early November)

2017 Titans: 9-7, Second in AFC South, lost in the divisional round 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 8

Early line: Redskins +5.5

Key additions: CB Malcolm Butler, DT Bennie Logan, RB Dion Lewis

Key losses: DT Sylvester Williams, RB DeMarco Murray

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Marcus Mariota improved from his rookie year and had a solid 2016. But he regressed last season. In which direction is his career headed?
  • After head coach Mike Mularkey took the Titans to the second round of the playoffs he was summarily fired. Will they regret making to switch to Mike Vrabel?

Series history

The all-time series between the two teams is tied a 6-6; the teams split six games when the franchise was the Houston Oilers and they have gong 3-3 since the move to Tennessee. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1971, RFK Stadium—The Redskins offense didn’t score a touchdown but that often didn’t matter when George Allen was the head coach as they still won 22-13. Washington’s scoring came on five Curt Knight field goals and on an 18-yard interception return by defensive end Ron McDole. That touchdown came on one of five takeaways by the Redskins defense. 

The last time: October 19, 2014, FedEx Field—Quarterback Kirk Cousins was struggling in the first half, losing a fumble and throwing a head-scratching interception. With the Redskins trailing the 2-4 Titans 10-6, Jay Gruden decided it was time for a change and Colt McCoy came in to play QB in the second half. 

Things clicked immediately as McCoy threw a short pass to Pierre Garçon, who turned upfield and rolled in for a 70-yard touchdown. It was back and forth in the second half and the Redskins were trailing 17-16 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 3:14 to play. McCoy led a 10-play drive that consumed all of the remaining time and culminated in a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal to win it 19-17. 

The best time: November 3, 1991, RFK Stadium—To win nine straight NFL games to start out a season, you need solid blocking, accurate passing, hard-hitting tackling, inspired play calling, crisp execution and, as was the case today, a little bit of luck. Chip Lohmiller kicked a 41-yard field goal for Washington to give the Redskins a 16-13 overtime win over Houston. Darrell Green’s interception at the Houston 33 set up the kick. All of that, however, would not have happened if not for Oiler placekicker Ian Howfield. 

After Houston tied the game on a one-yard run by Lorenzo White with 1:42 left in the game, Brian Mitchell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Oilers prime field position. Howfield came in for a 33-yard field goal attempt with one second left. It appeared that the winning streak would end at eight. “You don’t exactly give up, but you’re not far from it,” said Andre Collins. 

The snap was perfect as was the hold, but Howfield’s kick was wide right. 

On Houston’s second offensive play of overtime, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon got bumped as he threw an out pass and Green picked it off. Three Ernest Byner runs preceded Lohmiller’s game-ending kick. 

The worst time: October 30, 1988, Astrodome—Washington entered the contest riding a three-game winning streak and appeared to be rounding into form to defend their Super Bowl title. Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes to Drew Hill, however, and the Redskins took a 41-17 whipping that wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate.

Redskins schedule series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS  and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS  and on Instagram @RichTandler