A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

Merry Christmas to all …

As I sat down to watch some football yesterday afternoon, I discovered that in the DC area there would be only one game televised in the 1:00 PM time slot.  That was the Skins and Broncos in one of the more meaningless games of the day, but I had a cup of coffee in hand and no social commitment until 5:00 PM and so I watched.  By the middle of the third quarter, I found myself thinking of Charles Dickens.  What I was watching was – with apologies to Mr. Dickens – A Tale of Two Quarterbacks.  The month of March in 2016 joined these two quarterbacks at the hip; they are Kirk Cousins and Brock Osweiler.

They both came to the NFL in 2012; neither set the league on fire until the 2015 season; even in 2015, what they showed was more like a campfire than like a forest fire.  Nonetheless, competency at the QB position is important in the NFL and two teams took very different approaches with these two young men.

  • On March 1, 2016, the Skins applied the franchise tag to Kirk Cousins.  At the time he signed that offer sheet, he was guaranteed a $20M salary for the 2016 season with no assurance that he would be back with the team after that.
  • On March 9, 2016, the Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a 4-year contract worth a total of $72M with $37M of that contract guaranteed.

According to reports at the time – and I have nothing else to go on besides those reports – the reason the Skins and Cousins could not reach a long-term deal was that the Skins would not go beyond $16M per year for 5 years with only $35M guaranteed.  That was a low-ball offer and probably served as a starting point for the Skins in what should have been a back-and-forth deal making process; reports say the Skins refused to budge.  Whatever.

In the 2016 season, Osweiler stunk out the joint in Houston and lost his starting job.  The Texans gave him and a draft pick to the Browns in the aftermath of that 2016 season in exchange for the Browns picking up the tab on the rest of the guaranteed money in that contract.  The Browns cut Osweiler to go with DeShone Kizer at QB and Osweiler went back to the Broncos – the team he started with in the NFL – for a less-than-mediocre season in 2017.  Cousins had a good year 2016 throwing for 4917 yards and leading the Skins to an 8-7-1 record and he has had a solid year so far in 2017.

Not only did the Skins fail to sign Cousins at the end of the 2016 season, they franchised him again; that time the franchise tag was worth $25M (approximately) and was guaranteed the moment the ink was dry on Cousins’ signature.  As the 2017 season ends, the Skins still have no assurance that Cousins will be their QB in 2018.

Yesterday, these two QBs faced each other on my TV in a meaningless game.  So, I concentrated on watching them; I wanted to compare them.  Here is my assessment:

  • Kirk Cousins is a better-than-average NFL QB.  He would be the starter on at least a dozen teams and probably on 20 teams as of this year.  He is a solid and methodical player who makes few mistakes other than the times when he tries to do something that is beyond his athletic skill level.
  • Brock Osweiler is a stop-gap back-up QB at best.  He is sonly 27 years old; he may improve with time and experience.  However, in December 2017, he is clearly inferior to Kirk Cousins.

I doubt that the Broncos would shed crocodile tears if they had to part with Brock Osweiler one more time.  I believe it would take a Hollywood twist of fate to see him as the starting QB in Denver in 2018.  The Skins’ situation is very different.

Recall that the Skins would not guarantee Cousins more than $35M back in 2016 (according to reports).  Well, with the two franchise tags they have used, they have already paid him about $45M in guaranteed money – and have no assurance that he will be back.  If they apply the franchise tag again, it will cost them $34M in guaranteed money in 2018 and after that they cannot prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.  If they do that – and they might – they will have committed $79M in guaranteed money to a player they refused to give a contract with more than $35M in guaranteed money.  The going rate for franchise QBs in the NFL these days seems to be in this range:

  • $25-27M per year with about $80-85M in guaranteed money over 5 to 6 years.

Before the naysayers chime in here to tell me that Kirk Cousins has never won a playoff game so how can he possibly think he is worth that kind of money, let me point out that those sorts of numbers are what Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford received as long-term deals in 2016.  And just like Kirk Cousins, neither Carr nor Stafford has ever won a playoff game.  In fact, Carr has never participated in a playoff game.

Someone in the Skins’ braintrust back in 2016 had the chance to sign Kirk Cousins with a competitive offer – such as the one the Texans made to Brock Osweiler.  Maybe Cousins’ agent would have been more aggressive; maybe the Skins would have to “overpay” a bit – as the franchise has done with free agents more than a few times in the last 20 years.  The fact is that they might have been able to have Cousins set to enter the third year of a 5-years deal having guaranteed him not much more money than they have already paid him in guaranteed money.  Moreover, the annual salary level from a 2016 contract would be several millions of dollars less than what it will cost the Skins to sign Cousins to a long-term deal – or to sign a free agent of comparable capability.

Or, the Skins could draft a QB and hope that he turns out to be another Kirk Cousins and not another RG3 – both of whom came to the Skins in the same draft in 2012.

I started out this rant thinking about Charles Dickens and A Tale of Two Cities.  Having gone through the thought processes here, I will go to the far end of the literary scale for my next metaphor.  This thinking applies to the folks who oversaw the Skins’ Front Office in 2016 and the “literary” moment comes from the screenwriter for I Love Lucy.  Desi Arnaz was wont to say:

“Lucy, you have some ‘splainin to do.”

Enough venting for the day.  My long-suffering wife and I are off to a neighbor’s house for Christmas dinner.  I hope everyone has a good a time celebrating Christmas as we are sure to have at this event.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Quarterbacks”

    1. Tenacious P:

      Wilson is better than either Osweiler or Cousins – – and properly, he has a long-term deal.

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