Quick Links

Will Kirk Cousins’ new contract be a cap killer for the Redskins?

Will Kirk Cousins’ new contract be a cap killer for the Redskins?

Redskins president Bruce Allen said last night that the team has started to have contract discussions with Kirk Cousins’ agent, Mike McCartney, and they are going well.

We feel good,” Allen said. “Kirk wants to be a Washington Redskin, and we want Kirk to be a Washington Redskin. It will work itself out.”

But what will the Redskins’ salary cap look like when it does work itself out? Will the Redskins be able to retain their own good players and pay free agents to fill holes?

In the short term, certainly, his contract should not be an issue. If the Redskins want to they can squeeze Cousins’ deal into a very tight 2016 salary cap spot.

Cousins’ contract is likely to average between $15 and $20 million per year, probably close to the higher figure than the lower. The contract the Chiefs gave Alex Smith in 2014 averages $17 million per year, perhaps a bit less than Cousins will get, but close enough to use it to illustrate how Cousins’ deal could be structured.

Smith’s 2014 salary was $1 million but he still got plenty of cash in the form is an $18 million signing bonus. That structure made the first-year cap hit on his deal $4.6 million.

The Chiefs pay for that bargain cap hit as the years go by. The cap hit jumped up to $15.6 million last year, $17.8 million this coming season, $16.9 million in 2017 and $20.6 million in 2018.

The Redskins may want to smooth out the cap charge increases for Cousins’ contract. Since Bruce Allen has been involved in contract negotiations the organization generally has taken more of a “pay now” approach when it comes to big contracts. They could easily craft a contract for Cousins with a cap hit of $10 million in 2016.

How will that set up the Redskins’ salary cap for 2016? Based on the league estimate of $153 million per team, they currently have about $12.3 million in cap space (cap data via OverTheCap.com). When Robert Griffin III is released prior to the start of the league year on March 9 that number will jump to $26.4 million. They would have opportunities to create more by releasing some veterans but even at that they could comfortably carve out the $10 million for their quarterback.

Cousins’ cap numbers would go up from year to year. Let’s say his deal is for four years and $72 million, an average of $18 million. After that first-year cap hit of $10 million the cap hits could go $17 million in 2017 and then $19 million and $21 million. The remaining $5 million could go into a dummy fifth year that is voidable and would create a dead cap charge in 2020.

Keep in mind that the salary cap is likely to continue to increase annually. It's going to increase about $10 million from 2015 to this year and the NFLPA anticipates similar jumps. That means that Cousins' cap will remain roughly the same in terms of the percentage of the cap it eats up.

Still, other players like Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan will have increasing cap numbers as well and it will take some careful cap management to work around Cousins’ contract. The key will be Scot McCloughan’s ability to continue to stock the team with quality draft picks who can help the team win while drawing relatively modest salaries.

It’s a lot of money but it’s the going rate. A contract with an average of $18 million would make Cousins the 12th-highest paid quarterback in the NFL. That may be a bit high for a quarterback who has started just one season and doesn’t have a playoff win on his resume. But keep in mind that the cap will go up and quarterbacks signing new contracts will surpass the value of Cousins’ deal.

Quick Links

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on the roster

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on the roster

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on their roster this year.

Rich Tandler: True

The Redskins added a tight end to a roster that had four experienced players at the position already on it. But, make no mistake, fifth-round selection Jeremy Sprinkle was not a “luxury” pick.

Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both stone cold locks to make the roster. They are the pass catchers who are expected to combine for perhaps 1,500 yards and at least a dozen touchdowns.

The third tight end could be Niles Paul, a veteran who has battled injuries the last two years. He appears to be healthy and if he stays that way he can play tight end, be the fullback on the six or eight snaps per game the Redskins use one, and be a strong contributor on special teams.

MORE REDSKINS: TRESS WAY HIT A BYSTANDER WHILE GOLFING, BUT GRUDEN ISN'T SURPRISED

Sprinkle can fill a role that those three can’t—blocking tight end. Jay Gruden had to put tackle Ty Nsekhe on the field when they needed a three-tight end set. That made the job of the defense easier with essentially four eligible receivers to deal with.

With a well-defined role for each player, it would make perfect sense for the Redskins to carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster rather than the customary three. Of course, if they carry four at tight end they have to go with one fewer player elsewhere. They will find a spot.

Running back seems to be the logical place to go for that spot. If they keep, say, Mack Brown as the fourth running back, you then have a player without a defined role. He’s the backup to the backup to the backup. Sure, he can do special teams, but not as well as Paul.

Perhaps if you want to keep Brown you let go of Paul with his recent injury history and his $2.2 million cap number in mind. Or you can let Sprinkle get some seasoning on the practice squad.

But I think that the Redskins drafted Sprinkle with the plan to keep four tight ends. If they are going to go with their best, most versatile 53 that is what they will do.

JP Finlay: False

Man, this is tough. If you asked me this in May, I thought Niles Paul would be caught in a roster crunch. After watching the guys on the field through OTAs and minicamp, this decision becomes much harder. 

Paul played well in those sessions, showed no rust from the injuries and impressed regardless what quarterback he was paired up with. Sprinkle looked like a rookie with a lot to learn, and while he's really big, he still seemed like his upper body could fill out in the NFL. 

In a vacuum it's easy to say the Redskins should keep four tight ends. Like Tandler laid out above, Reed and Davis are roster locks. Paul can help in a ton of spots, and Sprinkle should evolve into the blocking tight end for the jumbo set. 

But NFL rosters aren't made in vacuums. To keep a fourth tight end, the Redskins will have to make a cut, and Tandler suggested Mack Brown could be the guy. I don't see that happening. Jay Gruden and Randy Jordan speak glowingly about Brown. 

This will be a fun roster spot to watch, but in June, before any injuries or the competition of training camp, I think the Redskins keep Reed, Davis and Paul. Then they really, really hope they can sneak the rookie Sprinkle to their practice squad.

Washington has not kept three healthy tight ends on their roster in the last few seasons, and if that trend continues, Sprinkle would make the NFL roster before the end of the year. Keeping four tight ends just isn't a luxury the Redskins have, especially keeping three quarterbacks like they're expected to do. 

Tandler-Finlay True or False series: Leading rusher | Leading receiver

Quick Links

Standouts and scrubs: Looking at Bruce Allen's track record with quarterbacks

Standouts and scrubs: Looking at Bruce Allen's track record with quarterbacks

Much can be learned looking to the past, at least that's what thousands of college students hear every fall when they sit down for History 101. Assuming the premise is true, perhaps something can be learned from looking back at Bruce Allen's tenure across the NFL and the quarterbacks that started for those teams. 

A refresher: Allen worked with the Raiders and Bucs before coming to the Redskins. Allen started with the Raiders in 1995, and worked his way up through the front office, earning the NFL's Executive of the Year award in 2002. He left the Raiders to work with Jon Gruden in Tampa in 2004, after the pair experienced much success together with the Raiders. Tampa fired Allen in 2008, and he came to work with the Redskins in 2010. 

His tenure with the Raiders showcased the best QB find in his file: Rich Gannon. Before coming to Oakland, Gannon earned the journeyman title, starting 58 games over 11 seasons for the Chiefs, Vikings and, yes, the Redskins.

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

Once Gannon and Gruden worked together, everything clicked. The Raiders started winning games and Gannon started to pile up impressive offensive stats. He was the quarterback when Oakland lost the infamous 'Tuck Rule' playoff game against New England, and won an NFL MVP award in 2002 while guiding the Raiders to the Super Bowl (which they lost to a Jon Gruden coached Tampa team). 

Gannon was a find, undoubtedly. Beyond that, Allen's resume on quarterbacks gets pretty ugly.

In fact, Kirk Cousins would probably rank as the second best QB of all Bruce Allen teams. In Tampa, the quarterback position was a revolving door, and included luminaries (sarcasm font) like Chris Simms, Brian Griese and Bruce Gradkowski. The Bucs added Jeff Garcia in 2007, and he had some success, but was 37 years old at that point. 

Once he got to Washington, the Redskins trotted out a collection of subpar passers like a past-his-prime Donovan McNabb, a-never-actually-good John Beck and Rex Grossman. Rex needs no introduction. 

In 2012, the Redskins quarterback fortunes changed. The team made a very aggressive trade to draft Robert Griffin III. RG3 was supposed to be the franchise savior, and for much of his rookie season, that plan seemed to be working. 

Injuries and infighting ruined Griffin's time with the Redskins, and opened the door for 2012 fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins to emerge. 

RELATED: TRESS WAY HIT A GIRL WHILE GOLFING, BUT JAY GRUDEN ISN'T SURPRISED

Now, in 2017, Cousins has twice broken the Redskins single season passing yards record and cemented himself as a quality NFL starter. His long-term future with the organization remains uncertain, as Cousins will play this season on a one-year contract and the prospect of a multi-year contract seems slim. 

It's hard to draw too many conclusions looking the quarterbacks throughout Allen's tenure. Before Gannon in Oakland, the Raiders tried a variety of other journeyman QBs (Jeff Hostetler, Jeff George). One could argue they got lucky with Gannon, or that the organization brought out his best tools. Either way it's a positive grade.

In Tampa, the results look much worse. On paper, it seemed the Bucs tried to get cheap, available quarterbacks and make them work, believing strongly in their offensive system. It didn't work. 

In Washington, particularly during the Grossman/Beck season, it seemed the Redskins tried a similar approach. That ended in 2012 with the trade for RG3. The Redskins paid up big time, in the form of draft picks. 

Now it's arguable that a deal with Cousins can even be reached, but if that does happen, it will be because the Redskins pay up. Recent history doesn't suggest it, but this situation has never presented itself either. Cousins is a fourth-round pick that emerged after a few volatile seasons to establish himself as a Top 15 NFL starter.

There's no lesson for that in the history books. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!