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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.

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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