WASHINGTON, D.C. — I’m interrupting a scheduled vacation to lay out my thoughts on the hottest NFL topic with a strong connection to the 49ers: Kirk Cousins.
The Redskins blew contract negotiations with arguably the most stable and talented quarterback the team has had in the history of its franchise.
But blowing the deal wasn’t enough for Washington.
Team president Bruce Allen decided to release a statement that inaccurately drug Cousins through the mud. Allen tried to make it seem like the Redskins offered Cousins a fair deal — $53 million guaranteed. But $24 million of it will come this year on the franchise tag, meaning the team really only guaranteed one-year of Cousins’ contract for $29 million. It’s a laughable offer and not even the most gullible Washington fan can defend it.
Essentially, the Redskins publicly crapped their pants on Monday and tried blaming the chef instead of themselves for not making it to a toilet quick enough. They brought even more attention to how dysfunctional the organization is. An attempt to make it seem like Cousins is greedy for rejecting their proposal completely backfired.
So, besides a contentious relationship between Cousins and the Redskins, what’s next?
ESPN.com’s Bill Barnwell wrote an excellent piece on the repercussions of Washington’s failures and suggested this: trade Cousins now before you lose him next offseason for a 2019 compensatory third-round pick.
One of Barnwell’s proposals involves the 49ers trading Brian Hoyer and a second-round pick to the Redskins for Cousins. Before you get all up in arms about giving away a draft pick for a player the 49ers probably are going to end up with in free agency, remember GM John Lynch netted an extra second and third round pick for 2018 from New Orleans and Chicago, respectively. Lynch has hinted those picks could be used for quarterback ammo, not just adding young talent.
The NFL is ultimately a business and if the 49ers can secure their long term answer at quarterback for the price of a second-round pick, they should acquire Cousins immediately. This is nothing against Hoyer, who has walked into Santa Clara and become the smart, vocal leader on offense the 49ers desperately needed. But it was Kyle Shanahan who pushed for the Redskins to draft Cousins in the fourth round in 2012, a mere two days after the selection of Robert Griffin III. Cousins has always been Shanahan’s guy, and after watching what the offensive guru did with Matt Ryan, the possibilities are endless for how much better Cousins can become in San Francisco.
The Cleveland Browns are the wild card here. They are the only team with as much cap room as the 49ers, likely more than $100 million come next offseason. They have the draft capital after landing Houston’s 2018 first-round pick and Brock Osweiler for cash considerations. They also aren’t afraid to make a bold decision to try and beat Shanahan for Cousins’ services before he hits the open market next March.
The funny part about that Browns-Texans trade from March? Barnwell actually suggested it in a previous column. NFL teams pay attention to what he writes and his idea about trading Cousins now before the season begins actually makes a ton of sense.
Here’s the problem: the Redskins aren’t a sensible franchise.
Monday’s statement wasn’t even the most embarrassing storyline from yet another tumultuous offseason. After finishing above .500 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1996-97, Dan Snyder and Allen fired general manager Scot McCloughan. They cited McCloughan’s drinking problem, even though The Undefeated had a source saying Allen brushes his teeth with Coors Light. Snyder and Allen were threatened by McCloughan’s superior talent evaluation and rough around the edges style. Snyder and Allen would rather lose football games than lose control of power.
I’ve been reporting for months the last thing Snyder wants to see is a reunion between Shanahan and Cousins. His fear is Redskins fans will finally wake up to his nearly 20 years of incompetence and stop showing up to a decaying FedEx Field. His bad blood with the Shanahan family supersedes making a smart football transaction. Sadly for Washingtonians, that’s who the Redskins have become: a franchise that puts their owners’ personal feelings above winning.
So even if Doug Williams — the new head of personnel, or shall we say the latest Snyder/Allen puppet — approaches his bosses about trading Cousins now, expect them to veto the trade, at least if it’s to San Francisco.
Washington is going to play this season out with Cousins, pray they make the playoffs, pray the 49ers are an absolute disaster in Year 1 of Shanahan and hope they can convince Cousins that he belongs in D.C. The problem with that approach is they just ridiculed their quarterback publicly 10 days before training camp in an almost unheard of fashion. How could he ever trust Allen or Snyder?
Again, Washington is such a disaster without a plan, you can’t rule out them franchise-tagging Cousins for $34 million next offseason (or at least the transition tag for $29 million). As Barnwell points out, that means the Redskins will have paid Cousins $78.4 million in three seasons, an unprecedented record to begin with. Paying a player that amount on three consecutive one-year deals is one of the most foolish business decisions in NFL history. And to match any monstrous offer on a transition tag from San Francisco or Cleveland in 2018, Washington would likely have to cut a star player or two in the process – a year after already letting DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon walk. What a debacle.
The funniest part about this whole ordeal is that the Redskins went through quarterback hell for close to 20 seasons and they are about to re-enter it. With Cousins they can theoretically make the playoffs. Without him, they are unquestionably a bottom 10 team in the NFL. The days of starting Jason Campbell, Patrick Ramsey, Shane Matthews – those days are in the Redskins’ future.
It wasn’t enough for the Redskins to just blow the deal with Cousins. They had to react emotionally in the moment to try and save grace with a sliver of a dwindling fan base. In reality, they alienated Cousins further.