How the Redskins totally botched the Kirk Cousins contract debacle ... again

Charles Robinson
NFL columnist

One year ago, the Washington Redskins told Kirk Cousins to wait on a contract. Then they complained about his refusal of a team-friendly deal and having to pay Cousins $20 million in 2016 under the franchise tag. One year later? Cousins told the Redskins he wanted to wait. So in true Redskins fashion, on Monday the franchise released a grousing statement, bemoaning the lack of a team-friendly, long-term deal – sealing it with language seemingly meant to frame Cousins as greedy.

Take it all in, folks. Because you may never see a franchise quarterback negotiation this screwed up again. One year ago, the Redskins smacked Cousins with a negotiating stick and expected him to like it. A year later, the franchise handed him the negotiating stick and then complained when he returned the favor.

That’s what this all amounts to. The Redskins botched the Cousins talks once. Then twice. And president Bruce Allen topped it off with a statement that might as well have been written on the dirty diaper he filled up when talks failed.

“[D]espite our repeated attempts, we have not received any offer from Kirk’s agent this year,” Allen’s statement read. “Kirk has made it clear that he prefers to play on a year-to-year basis. While we would have liked to work out a long-term contract before this season, we accept his decision.”

Note the language: “We accept his decision.”

Now consider all of this: In 2016, the Redskins undermined their contract talks with poor incremental offers that were never on par with Cousins’ market value. So Washington put the franchise tag on him and asked Cousins to justify a better deal – which he did, while the market for quarterbacks continued to rise. Now in 2017, the Redskins tried to clean up that mess by repeating the same negotiating tactic, offering Cousins a team-friendly, six-year contract with only two years of guaranteed money.

Bruce Allen has been with the Redskins since the 2010 season. (AP)

The telling breakdown: Cousins’ new deal would have paid him $53 million guaranteed over the first two seasons. The problem? If the Redskins intend to keep him, that’s basically the same amount Cousins is getting no matter what: this year’s franchise tag ($23.9 million) plus the 2018 transition tag ($28.7 million).

To put it more precisely, the Redskins offered Kirk Cousins $324,080 more in guaranteed money than he is already slated to get under the next two tags. For that $324,080 in extra money, Cousins would be trading off any shot at free agency and also locking in four additional non-guaranteed contract years of his prime.

In the NFL agent industry, that’s a sucker deal, and Cousins’ own agent doesn’t even need to say it. His competitors were so incredulous on Monday that the Redskins logo could have been replaced with an eye-roll emoji.

And truth be told, why wouldn’t Cousins want to wait one season anyway? Barring a significant drop-off in play, he’s got a free agent market that is going to be tilting in his favor should he ever be cut loose, to the point that it’s conceivable more than one NFL team will offer Cousins a top-three quarterback deal with $25-$30 million in salary and $70-$80 million in guaranteed money. He’s bet on himself this far. What’s another season?

And lest anyone forget, the Redskins aren’t exactly a portrait of calm lately. The franchise just lost its top two wide receivers in free agency. It also fired general manager Scot McCloughan a few months ago in the ugliest of fashions – with someone from the inside sliding anonymous character assassinating quotes into The Washington Post. And not that long ago, the organization didn’t seem all that sold on Cousins being their guy anyway, this despite spending several seasons patiently bending over backward for Robert Griffin III during his downward spiral.

Kirk Cousins has chosen not to respond to the Redskins offer. (AP)

So maybe Cousins will be doing a little assessing of his own the next eight months – much the same way the franchise felt the need to measure him in 2016. Maybe he wants to see what a sturdy commitment looks like, or how the brain trust reacts when he hits a rough patch. Or maybe he’d just like to go a season without some anonymous suggestion to the media that the franchise might be just fine with Colt McCoy as the starter.

If that’s what Cousins is seeking – a longer look at how the team embraces him – then you can be sure that Monday was another eye-opening moment. Look no further than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who failed to get a long-term deal done with Le’Veon Bell Monday and reacted with this:

“Unfortunately, we were unable to agree to terms on a long-term contract with Le’Veon Bell prior to today’s deadline,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “Le’Veon is scheduled to play this year under the Exclusive Franchise Tag designation. We will resume our efforts to address his contract situation following the 2017 season.”

No mention of money. No shady reaction to what Bell didn’t take. Just a simple “we didn’t get it done” and a move forth toward the season.

Meanwhile, the Redskins and Bruce Allen took another route and another shot. He no longer has the negotiating stick, so he used a news release instead. It backfired, just another mistake-filled iteration in what will go down as one of the most botched quarterback negotiations in NFL history.