NFL AM: Last Year For These Franchisees?


The big NFL news on Friday was the new, long-term contract extensions that Von Miller, Muhammad Wilkerson and Justin Tucker received from their respective teams.

Although it’s great for Miller, who received the most guaranteed money in NFL history for a non-quarterback, Wilkerson and Tucker, we’re going to examine the ramifications of the four players who didn’t receive new deals.

Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

The Redskins were a little gun-shy to pay Cousins, and rightfully so as he put together a little more than half a season of fine play.  They know that failing to pay him now might cost them more in the future, but that’s a chance their willing to take.

If you need a history lesson, look to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then general manager Mark Dominik, who made then quarterback Josh Freeman “prove it” for another year when he entered the final year of his deal and Freeman didn’t make it through the first quarter of the season as a starter.

Cousins doesn’t have the same red flags as Freeman did, but Washington is certainly within their rights to hold off on paying him.  They were burned by Robert Griffin, III and it’s understandable to be hesitant to play a guy who backed up Griffin for three years.

So will this be Cousins last year with the Redskins? 

Not likely.

Even if he flames out somewhat, the ‘Skins will likely win enough games with him to not be able to select his immediate successor in the draft.  Washington would be more than happy to have Cousins break the bank after the 2016 season, and if he plays well there would be no way they wouldn’t franchise him again next year, even if it costs upwards of $24 million.

Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs

The Eric Berry- Chiefs situation is a complicated one.  Berry is a respected leader who overcame cancer.  He’s everything that a football player should embody.

With that said, there’s a giant elephant in the room and that’s the fact that Berry is in remission, and the Chiefs don’t want to be financially responsible if his cancer returns.

Honestly, can you blame them?

Berry is an All-Pro safety, but the truth is that he lacks coverage skills in one-on-one situations.  He’s a better than average player, and his draft status (Top 10) and public overcoming of cancer make him seem like a better player than he is.

As much as it sounds callous to say, the Chiefs did the right thing by not giving Berry a ton of guaranteed money.  He’s not the best safety in football and shouldn’t be paid like it.  If he plays lights out in 2016, they can certainly revisit the situation in the offseason, after placing the franchise tag on him again.

His growing legend is worth extra money to Kansas City and that’s the best place for him.  With that said, the Chiefs are in the right to do their due diligence and make him stay healthy for one more year.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears

The situation between Alshon Jeffery and the Bears seems the most bleak in terms of getting a long-term deal done.

Knowing that Jeffery would be a free agent this offseason, the Bears selected wide receiver Kevin White in the first round of the 2015 Draft.  White’s rookie season was nothing short of a disaster, as he was injured and didn’t play, and prior to that our sources tell us that many in team circles believed he would be a “bust.”

The Bears were hoping that they would transition smoothly from Jeffery to White, as they did from Brandon Marshall to Jeffery, but that will have to wait at least one more year.

It doesn’t seem like Chicago values that wide receiver position that greatly and it’s more than likely that Jeffery won’t get a new deal in Chicago, regardless of what type of numbers he puts up in 2016.

Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles Rams

The Rams had a decision to make this offseason with the cornerback position and they chose to franchise Trumaine Johnson and let Janoris Jenkins walk in free agency where he landed with the New York Giants.

Johnson put together a very productive season in 2015, and he’s going to have to prove it one more time before the team hands him over the big bucks.

L.A. will soon have to pay stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald and former first-round pick Michael Brockers will be a free agent at the end of the 2016 season.

The Rams believe they have a franchise quarterback in Jared Goff and it would be nice to allocate some of their funds toward getting him some help on the outside.

It’s unclear exactly where Johnson fits in to the team’s free agent budget for next season, but it’s clear that Los Angeles favors the defensive line more than the secondary.

Johnson’s fate could actually depend on whether a receiver like Alshon Jeffery hits the market next year, where he would likely be one of the Rams top targets.

There’s probably a 70 percent chance that Johnson is a Ram past the 2016 season, but unlike the other’s on this list it’s possible that he could play his way right out of the team’s budget.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.