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Cousins' 2016 price tag likely in $13-$17 million range

Cousins' 2016 price tag likely in $13-$17 million range

Although it probably won’t happen until sometime this spring, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is going to get paid.

Yes, he is either a work in progress or a flawed player, depending on what point of view you take. Or perhaps it’s a bit of both. Regardless, in the NFL even unfinished and/or imperfect quarterbacks can make a lot of money.

Cousins will be a free agent at the end of the season and assuming he starts the remaining three games this year he could be a rarity. Quarterbacks who started 16 games the previous season rarely hit the free agent market.

Because of that and the fact that Cousins has just one full season as a starter under his belt his value is hard to figure out, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry. He wrote a long, detailed look at what Cousins’ next contract might look like. And, because of the variables involved, he finds it hard to come up with anything definitive.

One possibility is for Cousins to get a traditional free agent contract that covers four or five years. Corry says that Cousins’ passing numbers are comparable to those of Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and Alex Smith of the Chiefs. They are in the middle of contracts that average $17.6 million and $17 million per year, respectively.

The difference is that Stafford and Smith both had much longer track records as starters before signing their contracts. The Redskins may not be willing to commit that much to Cousins based on one season as the starter.

That is where a contract like the one Nick Foles signed with the Rams earlier this year could come into play. The deal was for two years and $24.5 million with $13.7 million fully guaranteed. There are incentives for both personal goals (like Pro Bowl appearances) and team success (such as playoff wins) that can add up to $4.5 million per year to the deal.

A deal like that would allow the Redskins to continue to evaluate Cousins while giving the player an opportunity to further establish himself and increase his earning power in a future contract he would sign in a couple of years before the age of 30. Cousins’ agent Mike McCartney might want a higher floor and higher ceiling

One option that Corry puts out there is the franchise tag for 2016. If Cousins has a strong finish to the season the Redskins might think of tagging him if they can’t come to a deal by the tag deadline in late February. That would give Cousins a $19.7 million salary for 2016. The two teams would have until mid-July to work out a longer-term contract or Cousins would play out the year with the tag and that guaranteed salary.

The Redskins will have the cap room to do it but they would rather not. That gives them incentive to make a deal sooner rather than later, well before the free agent market opens up in March. From Cousins' perspective, it would be a nice payday for one year but there would be no security in place.

Cousins could be tempted to explore the market but quarterback movement in the free agent market is rare in part because QBs like to stay in the system that made them successful. That doesn’t mean Cousins won’t go elsewhere and he is unlikely to give any sort of a hometown discount to the Redskins. But if McCartney thinks that a deal on the table is a good one, there is a good chance that Cousins will sign it.

There are still a lot of variables in play and there are still three important regular season games and possibly one or more playoff games to go in January. But the best guess right now is that Cousins stays in Washington and gets a three-year deal with the third year voidable with a base average of $13-$14 million per year with another $3-$4 million in incentives.

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

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