NFL AM: Redskins and Saints Have Decisions To Make With QB Contracts


Redskins Should Think Twice Before Franchising Cousins

When the report that contract talks between the Washington Redskins and Kirk Cousins broke down on Tuesday, common knowledge pointed to the team likely using the franchise tag on their quarterback to see if he can “prove it again.”

That makes sense on the surface.  Cousins did finish the season with a great nine-game stretch and he led the team to their first NFC East title since Robert Griffin, III was a rookie (2012).  Locking up Cousins for one year under the franchise tag would give the team an extended audition to see if he can be a legitimate franchise guy.

So why aren’t we convinced this is the route the Redskins should take?

It’s tough to believe that a good half of a single season is worth $20 million for the next year.  As good as Cousins was, how good were the Redskins really?  They feasted on sub-.500 competition and snuck into the playoffs in one of the worst divisions in football, only to get bounced on their heads in blowout fashion on their home field.

Even with RG3’s salary presumably coming off the books, how much of the Washington roster can be significantly improved with Cousins getting $20 million per year?

With quarterbacks there seems to be two markets: A $20+ million per year starter who should be able to carry a team or a backup making $3-or-$4 million annually.  Cousins certainly proved that he deserves another starting shot, but needs a bigger body of work to justify the multi-eight figure pay day.

What would be the risk for the Redskins by letting Cousins test the market?

First let’s look at the teams who would potentially be in the market for his services.  Cousins would be a potential upgrade for the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos (maybe), Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers.

The next question is would any of those teams think enough of Cousins to offer him a deal worth in excess of $20 million annually?  That’s certainly debatable.

One thing that isn’t debatable is that no team knows Cousins abilities better than the Redskins.  If they’ve balked at giving him a long-term extension than other teams will likely have reservations.

We all know the NFL is a copycat league and we just witnessed a team with a great defense win a Super Bowl with a quarterback who was less than functional.  That recipe for a title is very difficult to achieve, as it’s tough to build an unbelievable defense in today’s pass-happy league.

With that said, how much of a drop-off is it really from Cousins to Colt McCoy?  Or Cousins to a free agent like Chase Daniel?  Cousins to Ryan Fitzpatrick?

It would be foolish for the Redskins to put all of their eggs in the Cousins basket after a really good nine-game stretch where they had no victories against teams with winning records.

Let the market play out and if some team offers him a long-term deal then it’s likely that he and his agent will give Washington the chance to match it.

Saints Must Restructure Brees

The New Orleans Saints just finished their second consecutive sub-.500 season and help doesn’t appear to be on the way.

General Manager Mickey Loomis has approximately $6.5 million of cap space to attempt to rebuild a defense that finished 31st overall in each of the last two seasons.

An albatross toward this rebuilding effort is the contract of the most important player in the history of the franchise, quarterback Drew Brees.  The future Hall of Famer represents a $30 million cap hit in 2016 and the team needs to restructure a player that accounts for roughly 20 percent of their salary cap.

“It’s not mandatory that we do something with Drew (Brees),” Loomis said in a Sirius XM NFL Radio interview.

“We want Drew to be our quarterback this year, next year and the foreseeable future,” Loomis said. “I know he feels like he’s got more years left in him. I would say we feel that way as well.

“We’ll get that worked out in a way that helps our team and obviously fits in with what he wants to do.”

Since the Saints so desperately need to re-work Brees’ deal, despite what Loomis says, the quarterback holds all of the leverage.  It’s doubtful that Brees would hold a proverbial gun to the organization’s head, but that’s for the 37-year old’s agent Tom Condon to do.

Look for Brees to be one of the highest paid quarterbacks in terms of his yearly salary after his deal is done.  The Saints can’t say no and he’s due to be a free agent after the 2016 season.  If they don’t restructure him they’ll be terrible again and Loomis could get fired.  If they decide to cut him….well they can’t.

No. 9 has all the leverage, and look for his next contract to be worth nine figures.

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.