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What would a Kirk Cousins contract extension look like?

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What would a Kirk Cousins contract extension look like?

The Redskins have won two of their last three games, with quarterback Kirk Cousins playing a major part in the two wins. Cousins is a free agent at the end of the season and talk is starting to turn towards the possibility of the Redskins and the quarterback beginning discussions on a new deal.

According to reports, no talks have started between the Redskins and Mike McCartney, Cousins' agent. Jay Gruden said yesterday that Cousins "is a guy we'd like to keep around."

Cousins’ signed the standard four-year rookie deal after he was drafted in 2012. This year he is making the fourth-year veteran minimum salary of $660,000 this season. That’s great money for most of America but it’s not much for a starting NFL quarterback.

What would a Cousins extension look like? With seven games left in this, his first season the full-time starter, there are still a lot of variables. But barring either a total collapse or a Cousins-led run deep into the playoffs, we have a comparable deal that we can look at to get an idea.

Nick Foles, also drafted in 2012, recently got a contract extension from his current team, the Rams. He was traded from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason. In Philadelphia Foles had one very good year as a starter. In 2013 he started 10 games, threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and posted an impressive passer rating of 119.2. That performance earned him a Pro Bowl selection.

He came back to earth in 2014, missing half the season with injuries and posting 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 81.4.

Despite those pedestrian numbers, the Rams made the trade and got to work signing him to an extension. They agreed on a two-year extension that put a little more cash in his pocket this year (the last season of his rookie deal) and put him under contract through 2017. The two-year extension is worth $24.5 million with $13.7 million of that guaranteed. He can also earn up to $4.5 million in incentives and the last year of his contract can be voided by meeting performance benchmarks.

Foles’ deal also is fairly painless for the Rams to get out of after 2016 since all of the guaranteed money will have been paid out. That is relevant now because he has been benched, although Jeff Fisher said that Foles will return as the starter at some point.

There is a key difference between Foles’ situation prior to this season and the one the Redskins have with Cousins now. Foles had a year left on his contract so the Rams were giving him his payday early. That perhaps led to something of a hometown discount for the Rams.

At most, the Redskins will be buying out less than two months of free agency for Cousins and probably less than that. Between that factor and the fact that the salary cap will grow by some $10 million per team this year could push Cousins’ deal somewhat north of $12 million per year.

I don’t see it going too much higher than that, however, barring a tremendous run by Cousins and the Redskins over the last seven games. There has been speculation that Cousins could end up in the $17 million per year range, perhaps higher. But you won’t find any one-year starters who are making that kind of money. Quarterbacks with contracts averaging from $17-$18 million per year are the likes of Peyton Manning, Alex Smith, Matt Stafford, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. That’s too high for Cousins, who will have 25 career starts under his belt at the end of the season.

The market is likely to force Cousins to take less per season than most starting quarterbacks will make (a deal averaging $12 million per year would rank 21st among quarterbacks) but he won’t sign a long-term deal at that price. And he will want some incentives and escalators in case he does outperform the contract.

Putting all of that together, we’re looking at something in the neighborhood of three years in the $35-$40 million range with about $15 million guaranteed. Throw in the possibility of adding a couple of million per year in incentives and make the third year void if Cousins plays well and you have the outlines of a deal.

Some of you who are not sold on Cousins as the answer for the future might think that $40 million is an outrageous amount of money to pay him. But quarterbacks are expensive and they are expensive because of simple economics—the demand exceeds the supply. If you don’t pay Cousins, the question becomes who do you pay? There is not a tree somewhere that a team can go to and grab a quarterback who can post a perfect passer rating in a game or lead three fourth-quarter comebacks in a four-game span including one from 24 points down.

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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

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.

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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

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.

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