Raiders’ quar­ter­back deal bench­mark for Red­skins’ Cousins.

Raiders QB be­comes high­est-paid player in NFL history


One vari­able in Kirk Cousins‘ con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions has been the sta­tus of other quar­ter­backs — namely the Oak­land Raiders’ Derek Carr and the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford — who were ex­pected to land hefty, mar­ket-set­ting new deals this off­sea­son.

On Thurs­day, Carr signed a five-year con­tract ex­ten­sion worth $125 mil­lion ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple re­ports. The deal makes Carr the high­est-paid player in NFL history.

In foot­ball, the high­est-paid quar­ter­back is usu­ally the most re­cently paid one. Now, Cousins‘ rep­re­sen­ta­tives can use Carr’s new deal as a bench­mark in his ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The Red­skins can use the deal, too, though. In re­al­ity, it doesn’t do all that much for Cousins’ case to drive up his price.

If the team doesn’t sign him to a longterm deal, the Red­skins can keep Cousins on the fran­chise tag this year ($24 mil­lion) and ei­ther the tran­si­tion tag ($28 mil­lion) or fran­chise tag ($34 mil­lion) in 2018. Just the av­er­age of the fran­chise tag this year and tran­si­tion tag, the lower fig­ure, next year would put Cousins at a greater than $25 mil­lion an­nual value.

As is al­ways the case with NFL con­tracts, the amount of guar­an­teed money is what re­ally mat­ters. Carr got a guar­an­teed $40 mil­lion at sign­ing and re­port­edly is guar­an­teed $70 mil­lion through­out the con­tract. Last sum­mer, Colts quar­ter­back An­drew Luck got a guar­an­teed $47 mil­lion at sign­ing and $87 mil­lion guar­an­teed for in­jury, so Carr’s deal guar­an­tees less than Luck’s, even though his an­nual value is higher.

Cousins can earn ei­ther $52 mil­lion or $58 mil­lion, fully guar­an­teed, over the course of this year and next if he is tagged yet again.

Amy Trask, a for­mer CEO with the

Oak­land Raiders and a foot­ball an­a­lyst for CBS Sports, told The Wash­ing­ton Times the Red­skins “have got­ten them­selves in a lit­tle bit of a pickle” with Cousins.

“Now, maybe it’s a pickle of their own choos­ing,” Trask said. “Maybe they made an af­fir­ma­tive de­ci­sion go­ing in to let things play out this way. But they’ve cre­ated now, for them­selves, a sit­u­a­tion which is tough eco­nom­i­cally.”

In terms of per­for­mance, Carr and Cousins have played in roughly the same amount of games with Carr hav­ing ap­peared in only one more than Cousins. Carr, how­ever, has turned the ball over less through­out his ca­reer. Cousins throws in­ter­cep­tions on 2.7 per­cent of his passes to Carr’s 1.8. They’ve roughly fum­bled the same amount of times, although Carr has 25 fum­bles in three years to Cousins’ 24 in five.

Cousins, though, has been asked to throw more and has been the more ac­cu­rate passer. Cousins has a ca­reer 65.9 per­cent com­ple­tion rat­ing, in­clud­ing a 68.3 com­ple­tion per­cent­age since be­ing named started in 2015. Carr, mean­while, has com­pleted only 60.9 per­cent of his passes.

Carr has thrown more touch­downs with 81 ca­reer TDs to Cousins’ 72. Carr also had 28 TDs last year while Cousins had 25.

Com­par­ing stats can be mis­lead­ing, any­way — NFL teams pri­mar­ily base con­tracts on how pro­duc­tive play­ers are ex­pected to be in the fu­ture, not how pro­duc­tive they were in the past. Cousins is still in his prime at 28, but Carr is 25.

And since the Red­skins have tagged Cousins’ twice now, start­ing num­bers for a new Cousins con­tract will be based on what Wash­ing­ton could be forced to pay in the fu­ture rather than other deals on the mar­ket.

The struc­ture of the deals could also be vastly dif­fer­ent. Carr’s con­tract is re­port­edly back-loaded so that he won’t have to pay as much state in­come tax — the Raiders plan to move from Cal­i­for­nia to Ne­vada, where tax bills are lower, in 2019.

Carr’s con­tract sets a new high-wa­ter mark, but it still may not be the ceil­ing for Cousins.

“Look, If they want to re­tain Kirk Cousins they’ve got some tough de­ci­sions to make,” Trask said. “And if they don’t want to re­tain him they need to an­swer the ques­tion ‘And do what?’ I mean, it’s very easy for some­one to say, ‘Well, we can go in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.’ OK. And do what? What’s your an­swer?”

Trask’s ques­tion is about con­tin­gency plan­ning. It’s not some­thing Wash­ing­ton — which didn’t get a deal done with Cousins last year, when he had less lever­age and a lower mar­ket value — has par­tic­u­larly ex­celled at in re­cent years.


Oak­land Raiders quar­ter­back Derek Carr signed a five-year con­tract ex­ten­sion worth $125 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, be­com­ing the NFL’s high­est-paid player.

If he doesn’t sign a long-term deal, the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins can keep quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins on the fran­chise tag at $24 mil­lion this year.

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