Barnwell: Washington blew it, faces hard truths

From ESPN - July 17, 2017

It's not really a surprise that Washington and Kirk Cousins failed to come to terms on a long-term extension before Monday's deadline for franchise players.

What is a surprise, however, is what happened next. Team president Bruce Allen released a statement detailing the offer Washington made to keep Cousins in the organization while revealing that Cousins' representation failed to ever respond to the proposal. While teams often leak information to try to negotiate through various media channels, this sort of public revelation is virtually unprecedented. It also says a lot about Cousins' future in D.C.

First, let's talk about the offer itself. Allen suggests Washington made a generous offer on May 2 that would have given Cousins a record $53 million in full guarantees at the time of signing and $72 million in guarantees for injury. The organization apparently did not make a further offer after Derek Carr signed his extension in mid-June.

While there's little reason to doubt that the numbers Allen put out there are inaccurate, they are nowhere near as impressive as he's suggesting. For one, Cousins' franchise tag for 2017 already guarantees him $23.9 million, meaning that Washington's deal would only be worth $29.1 million in new money. Barring a career-threatening injury, Cousins unquestionably would get more than that in unrestricted free agency next year.

Former NFL agent Joel Corry suggested Cousins could get $100 million in guarantees on the free market. Cousins' deal would likely top the $87 million Andrew Luck received in guarantees on his extension with the Indianapolis Colts, and $90 million seems like a reasonable baseline.

To keep Cousins in town for 2018, Washington will have two options. One is an unprecedented third franchise tag, which would guarantee Cousins a staggering $34.5 million on a one-year deal. Alternately, Washington could employ the transition tag, which would allow them to match any offer without compensation at the cost of $28.8 million for one year.

In other words, Cousins was already in line to make a minimum of $52.7 million over the next two seasons without sacrificing the leverage of going year-to-year on his contract. Allen and the organization wanted him to give up that leverage and leave nearly $40 million on the table for an additional $300,000. Even if you want to believe that Cousins should take a conservative approach in a league in which the attrition rate is perilously high, there's no way to make that math credibly work. This was not the sort of record-setting, no-brainer offer the organization is suggesting in Allen's statement. It's barely a credible one given Cousins' current leverage.

Perhaps more importantly, it's telling that Washington released this statement publicly. It's a remarkably transparent attempt to poison the well of public opinion against their star quarterback, painting him as greedy and disinterested in sticking around for the long term. That's downright bizarre. Can you imagine the Patriots putting out this sort of statement about Tom Brady? Or the Packers throwing Aaron Rodgers underneath the bus like this? Would they call their quarterbacks "Tim" or "Arnold" while doing so?

You ca not. In part, that's because those organizations are not as dysfunctional and publicly dependent upon winning in the newspaper as Washington. More so, those teams would not try to pit their fans against their quarterback because they expect their signal-callers to stick around for the long term. Every bit of evidence we have suggests that Washington does not expect to have Cousins around for the long haul. It has not made a viable offer to keep him off the market for two years running, even long after Cousins broke out as a useful passer. Slamming him publicly makes things only worse. This is a broken relationship.


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