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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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Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

You would think that after spending two years as the team’s third-down back, playing more snaps than any other running back last season, and getting a second-round restricted free agent tender that will pay him $2.7 million this year, Chris Thompson might feel comfortable as the Redskins start up the final phase of their preseason program.

But Thompson says that he is as nervous about making the team as he was when he was a fifth-round in 2013.

“Even after the last preseason game when you guys talk to me I’m going to still be nervous when that time comes around because I never forget that feeling,” he told reporters on Monday prior to the Redskins charity golf tournament at Army-Navy Country Club.

“For me, I’ve just got to come out here and work every day to try to secure my job.”

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

The approach has worked for him in the past. He struggled with injuries his first two years in the league, playing a total of just six games. In 2015 he found his niche as the third-down back and he hasn’t given it up.

In fact, he may get more opportunities on first and second downs.

“I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year,” he said. “He [coach Jay Gruden] knows that I’m healthy and I can stay healthy. I think that was one of his biggest concerns, that I can handle the load. I think I’ll get a lot more opportunities.”

Rob Kelley is expected to be the starter and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine should get a significant number of carries. If Gruden plans on Thompson getting more work on the ground, that likely means that the Redskins anticipate running the ball more ofent than they did in 2016, when they were 27th in the NFL with 379 rushing attempts.

Health is key for Thompson. He not only played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last year, he came out of the season in good health. Not having the need to rehab is allowing Thompson to work on refining his game.

“[Being healthy] helps me to get away and focus on the little things that I need to work on,” he said. “Having a full offseason, being able to get away, I’ve been able to focus on those things. Just like my quickness, my route running. I know my route running is big for me to make it in this league so I work on that. . . that was my main goal.”

Thompson’s work ethic and his mindset where he takes nothing for granted have served him well. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and if he continues to produce he will be setting himself up for a nice payday. 

RELATED: OFFSEASON NFL POWER RANKINGS

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RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

Matt Jones entered the 2016 season as the Redskins undisputed starter at running back.

That lasted seven games.

By Week 8, Jones landed on the inactive list, and he never took another snap all year.

With OTAs beginning for the 2017 season, it looks like Jones might not play with the team. 

NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT?

In April at the NFL Draft, reports surfaced that Washington was trying to trade Jones.

Weeks before that, at the NFL Owner's Meetings in Arizona, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had to be reminded that Jones was still on the roster as the coach talked about the running back situation for this fall.

Robert Kelley surpassed Jones as the top running back on the team last season with Chris Thompson secure in his third down back role. 

Mack Brown even moved past Jones on the depth chart. When the Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round, that signaled even bigger trouble for Jones' roster situation.

The Redskins will likely only keep four running backs this fall, and with Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Brown, it sure seems like Jones is the odd man out.

It's remarkable considering Jones has size, speed and an NFL resume that has three 100-yard games on it in just 20 games. The Redskins spent a third-round pick on Jones in 2015, and he largely ousted fan favorite Alfred Morris from the RB1 role as a rookie. 

Life comes at you quick in the NFL.

Jones is a clear example of that. 

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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back