With a sizable list of mega deals handed out on July 15 shortly before the 4 p.m. deadline, the NFL finally got its turn to shine in lieu of the NBA’s big money offseason in which several $100-million-plus deals have been handed out. The 4 p.m. deadline represented the time frame in which NFL teams had to reach long-term deals with dedicated franchise players who were slapped with one-year franchise tags for the upcoming football season.
In this photo taken Jan. 10, 2016, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks up and the scoreboard after scoring a touchdown on a quarterback keeper during the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers in Landover, Md. Cousins will play next season on the franchise tag. Cousins and the team did not agree on a long-term deal before the Friday, July 15, 2016, deadline for franchise players to sign new contracts. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
For the Washington football team, their franchise tag washanded out back in March to last year’s success story, Kirk Cousins. While it wasn’t expected that Cousins and the Washington brass would reach a multi-year deal, the 27-year-old signal caller will play for the one-year tag of $19.953 million, making the situation a calculated risk for both Washington and its emerging star. Cousins ripped up team record books last season on the way to an NFC East title and a playoff berth in his first full season as the team’s starter. Washington, however, is banking on Cousins repeating his performance before they commit to major money. But, was it a smart move? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Green: As a Ravens reporter for several years, no one understands the importance of stability at the quarterback position better than I and the rest of the Ravens fan base. For a Washington team that’s gone several seasons with inconsistency at the quarterback position, gambling on whether or not their record-setting signal caller deserves a new deal is a big mistake. Washington is banking on the notion that if Cousins performs well again then they can just re-sign him as they wish once next season is over. But with the history of a franchise that typically botches things in bumbling fashion, re-signing Cousins won’t be a slam dunk. And even if he does play well, he can force Washington to overpay him, something many around Ravens Nation think occurred when quarterback Joe Flacco won the Super Bowl in 2013. Flacco bet on himself and played on a contract year in 2012. After hoisting the Lombardi trophy, Ravens front office was forced to pay him a $120 million contract. I don’t think Cousins will be winning a Super Bowl this coming season, but another trip to the playoffs could force Washington’s brass to pay him more than he’s actually worth.
Riley: Washington does have a laughable recent history of poor decisions and handing out huge dollars to duds which is why I agree with their move to stand firm. How many times has Washington forked over big money to a free agent based off of one year’s worth of work? Cousins became the darling of the team after he piloted Washington to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. He even had a decent showing in their 35-18 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round. Cousins’ 2015 season performance was great but so was the campaign of Robert Griffin III, the quarterback of the last Washington team to make the playoffs in 2012. Perhaps if not for Griffin’s miraculous 2012, Washington would’ve inked Cousins with no hesitation. But, with the past still fresh in their minds, the front office made a conservative decision.
Green: Griffin’s 2012 season was explosive and exciting but it wasn’t the masterpiece that Cousins just painted. Even if Cousins played half as well in this upcoming campaign as he did last season, he would still be the most consistent quarterback that Washington has had in a while. The quarterback position is so tricky in the NFL that a one-year wonder can completely fall off the map next season, so I understand Washington’s reluctance. However, for Washington, this isn’t your ordinary quarterback who signs on out of nowhere and becomes a star. Cousins has been inside Washington’s program since 2012 so the team obviously knows more about him than outsiders. But the franchise has struggled so long trying to find a savior to manage the helm that they’ve pretty much painted themselves into a corner. Another season of success shouldn’t be the tipping point after five seasons of seeing Cousins in-house every day, but apparently the team still isn’t sold. Another Washington football team blunder.
Riley: The team seeing Cousins every day should tell you everything you need to know about why Washington wanted another year’s worth of work. No one knows Cousins better than his own coaches, and if they were hesitant after last season then there’s definitely something more that they need to see. Quarterback is a complex position full of intangibles and different variables. One good solid season of production does not equate to a stellar career. And, for a team that’s been burned in the past by flash in the pans, I can’t fault them for not wanting to sink money again into an unsure thing. Washington will pay Cousins close to $20 million next season so it isn’t like they’re being stingy. They’re being cautious and calculated, and for a Washington brass that’s made several mistakes in prior seasons, they’re fine-tuning their thought process and that is admirable.