One of the weirdest things to happen this NFL season was Kirk Cousins’s transformation from bad quarterback to “Hold on, Kirk Cousins might actually be kind of good?” This should be a good thing for Washington, which could use nothing more than to have a functional quarterback fall into its lap after the RGIII debacle. But Cousins is currently a free agent, and that presents the Skins a variety of ways in which to bone themselves.
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that Cousins and Washington are “nowhere close” to getting a deal done, and that the team is considering using the franchise tag on him. You can see why the Skins would be reluctant to throw a long-term deal at Cousins. He’s only put together one good season, his best numbers coming against bad teams, and plenty of quarterbacks have regressed after showing flashes of competence. Giving a lot of money to a bad quarterback is a great way to ruin a few seasons, but even the franchise tag doesn’t mitigate all of that risk. If Cousins gets tagged for next season, the Skins will have to pay him about $20 million, and that’s a lot of payroll to tie up in a quarterback who may go right back to sucking.
But what if the Skins do tag Cousins, and then he goes out next season and kicks all types of ass? He becomes a known quantity, less of a risk, and that much more expensive. Then when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2017, Washington will either have to pay him, tag him again, or lose him to another team. Tagging a quarterback two years in a row isn’t a great option when it comes to quarterbacks, though: Washington would end up paying Cousins over $40 million for those two seasons, which is a lot more guaranteed money than they would have to pay him in a long-term deal today.
More than anything, Washington is a victim of timing. The offseason following his first good season is the worst time to try and figure out what a quarterback is actually worth. There are a lot of ways Cousins could end up being a godsend for the Skins, but there are just as many ways in which the whole situation could blow up on them. Given the history of the team, I’d bet on the latter.