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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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Need to Know: Washington Redskins free agency needs—Offense

Need to Know: Washington Redskins free agency needs—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 23, 14 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 6
—NFL Combine (3/2) 7
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 53
—NFL Draft (4/27) 63
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 199

Free agent moves—Offense

Free agency starts two weeks from today. The Redskins have plenty of needs, both big and small. Let’s take a look around and see what offensive positions they might be looking to bolster when things get going. I’ll follow up with the defense in the next few days.

Quarterback—It could be a yawner at this position or there could be plenty of drama. If Kirk Cousins gets franchise tagged or defies current expectations and signs a long-term deal, the depth chart will remain the same. If he is gone via a trade, things could be shaken up. While they may draft a QB in late April they could go for a mid-priced veteran as insurance.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Running back—The Redskins have a depth chart loaded with young, unproven talent at this position. If they want a veteran presence in the meeting room they could look at someone like Robert Turbin (McCloughan had a hand in drafting him in Seattle in 2012) or maybe Knile Davis.

Wide receiver—Things will get very interesting if the word on the street comes to pass and both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson are gone. They have a presumably healthy Josh Doctson in line to replace one but they would need a veteran. Maybe Kenny Stills or Kenny Britt, both young and productive, could be under consideration. If one of the veterans stays they likely will get depth in the draft.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Tight end—Vernon Davis seems likely to be back. If he’s not, the Redskins probably would rather have an alternative to Niles Paul as Jordan Reed’s primary backup. The probably won’t swim in the deep end of the pool with Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook. But maybe they will look at Jermaine Gresham, who made the Pro Bowl twice in Cincinnati while Jay Gruden was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.

Offensive line—Yesterday, JP and I discussed what they might do at left guard if they want to upgrade from Shawn Lauvao. Perhaps they could go for Kevin Zeitler, another Bengal who played under Gruden. But he will command a contract in the $8-$10 million range and with Brandon Scherff coming up for an extension next year that might be too much to spend at the guard position. Look for the Redskins to take an eventual Lauvao replacement in the draft.

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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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If Redskins trade Kirk Cousins to 49ers, 5 prospects to consider with No. 2 pick

If Redskins trade Kirk Cousins to 49ers, 5 prospects to consider with No. 2 pick

It still seems like a long-shot the Redskins trade Kirk Cousins, but if there is one persistent rumor, it's that the San Francisco 49ers want the Washington passer. The story is too familiar at this point: New Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was in D.C. when Cousins was drafted and wants the quarterback to come run his offense in San Francisco. With the second overall pick, the 49ers have a tremendous asset they can dangle in trade talks.

<<<CLICK HERE TO SEE 5 PROSPECTS FOR THE REDSKINS AT NO. 2 PICK>>>

Whether or not any of this rumor is true, it sure makes for engrossing speculation. With the NFL Draft Combine next week in Indianapolis, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he wouldn't be shocked to see the trade go down.

That's the backdrop. Beyond the debate of the merits of trading an established QB like Cousins, which is a very serious debate, there's also the notion of what player the 'Skins would select with the second overall pick.  

MORE REDSKINS: 2017 top heavy Cap could be a problem

It's worth examining the impact players available to Washington with the second selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and the options are varied, including perhaps a new QB. Check it out. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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