In the 2000 election cliffhanger between Bush and Gore, the late Tim Russert gained political TV immortality with a simple dry erase board and a single word written 3 times. Florida. Florida. Florida.
Russert knew, that no matter what else was happening in all the other state returns that night, the entire election was coming down to Florida. He proved to be more right than any election night pundit has ever been right.
In Redskinsland, we have our own dry erase board right now: “Kirk. Kirk. Kirk.”
I am not breaking any new ground here, and this thought is hardly original. But it is worth hammering home as the 2017 season fades to black. One can pick apart attractive elements of these last few wins against the dregs of polite QB society (Gabbert and Osweiller, back to back. Ooof!) but none of it matters.
The game is Kirk. The franchise is Kirk. The future is Kirk. There is nothing else.
So as we approach the long winter ahead, let me share my still muddled thoughts on what is both technically possible vs. what I believe is more likely to happen. While losing the best QB we’ve had in 20 years over stubbornness, frugality, and pride is enough to make me sick, I’ll admit the game of analyzing the multi-dimensional puzzle does fascinate me.
In sum, “The Kirk Problem” has been a slow forming football tumor, where with each year of delay by the team to take aggressive surgery on it, makes a good outcome less and less likely.
Let’s start with what’s possible. The Redskins can transition tag Kirk for $28M or franchise him a 3rd time for $34M. They could actually afford to do either, without having to release a bunch of players. A transition tag would invite possible kamikaze runs by a handful of teams with massive cap space and a desperate need for a QB. The 49ers, Browns, and Jets are three teams estimated to have at least $30M more than the Redskins this winter. But the Niners are now out, thanks to “Jimmy GQ” who is now 4-0, and I don’t think in a million years Kirk would go to the rudderless Jets and the glare of a ruthless New York market.
The Browns are little different, I think. They are somewhat more hapless than rudderless, and they have draft assets which will continue to strengthen the roster for years to come (provided Haslam lets football people make the picks, not homeless guys outside his favorite restaurant.) Sashi Brown and his moneyball gang may be gone, but the picks they acquired remain. If you were to drop a Kirk Cousins into the Browns right now, the difference would be shocking. Plus, Kirk is a “midwest guy” who may well fall in love with going someplace where he will be instantly adored by a fanbase that has been starved of even competent quarterbacking since their rebirth in 1999.
In short: if the Skins transition tag Kirk, the Browns are bringing all the money they got on a front-end-heavy contract with hooks, poison pills, and whatever else they can throw at the Skins in order to make them choke on it. And I think Kirk will listen.
None of the other teams that would be desperate for Kirk’s consistent and comfortably-in-the-top-10-in-the-league quarterbacking, have the salary cap Brinks truck capable of a transition tag heist. I’m looking at you: Arizona, Denver and Jacksonville. But I believe all three of them would entertain “Option B” on Kirk: A “tag and trade” for a brand new home, and a long term contract.
The Skins would hit Kirk with his $34M tag, and then tell Kirk’s agent to take calls from interested teams and get your expected long term deal shaped out in principal. Once that’s done, Kirk’s prospective “new team” can call Bruce Allen and figure out how much it’s going to cost in a trade.
The team to watch out for here: Denver. Denver. Denver.
Everybody and their mom knows that the QB is supreme in terms of NFL success or failure, but a franchise being run by a Hall of Fame QB knows it more acutely than anyone. And he’s got a great defense just dying on the vine behind a bunch of scrubs and dummies at QB. While they don’t have as much money to bury Kirk and his agent with, they have several things that would make it very attractive to me, if I were Kirk Cousins.
Above all, the Broncos remain a Tiffany franchise with a truly devoted fanbase. And even though the team currently is filtering through the Pat Bowlen succession plan, ownership will remain in the family and likely continue to be looked at as the Rocky Mountain version of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If I’m Kirk, I don’t need to break the bank on a deal with Denver. I’d even take a shade under Derek Carr money, and then WALK to Mile High with a smile on my face.
The Redskins will want at least a single #1 from Denver, and heck, they might get it. And Elway might consider that first-rounder the “easiest check he’s ever written” (as my buddy Chuck once said about hiring professional painters instead of doing it himself).
I think Arizona is in a similar boat (and don’t forget, Bruce Arians is a long-ago QB himself) and would be in the running as well. And Jacksonville will likely depend on just how good or bad Blake Bortles looks in the playoffs.
Then there are wildcard teams and situations. Are the Giants truly committed to Eli? What if Big Ben retires in Pittsburgh? What is Minnesota going to do with their collection three free-agent-to-be QB’s?
As for the Redskins… well.. sure. Bruce and Dan will likely try to re-start the whole “let’s get a long term deal” talks going as soon as possible with Kirk and his agent Mike McCartney. I predict they will go nowhere. Regardless of how suddenly generous the Skins newest offer might be, McCartney is going to simply point to the slashlines of Kirk’s last 3 seasons and say: “You bet against us 3 straight years. You keep losing. Sorry. It’s over. Either you work with us to help you claw back a nice draft pick or two from another team, or we’ll break you over the rocks of that $34M 2018 number and then leave after that. Your choice.”
And forget reading the tea leaves on every nice thing Kirk says about Washington D.C., this team, the importance of continuity, blah blah blah. Kirk is the kind of guy who is going to care about dumping us gently as fans, a sort of “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of breakup.
Redskins at Giants on Sunday December 31st at MetLife. Set your DVR’s to record and hit “Save Until I Delete.”