In the movie “Castaway” Tom Hanks manages to impossibly survive a plane crash in the middle of the ocean. He amazingly figures out how to spear enough fish to stay nourished and alive. He even befriends a volleyball with a blood drawn face.
But it was the damn toothache that finally drove him to attempt suicide.
You would think he’d be tough enough mentally and physically to say…
“a damn toothache ain’t gonna kill me now! No way!” But I’d imagine that the constancy of that irritation and pain, the relentlessness of it, day in and day out, is what could drive a man (even fictional) mad.
Kirk Cousins is my toothache. Please God, just make it end.
(NOTE: I’m an IDIOT. Yes, he knocked the tooth out with the ice skate. He tried to kill himself out of boredom. I need to re-watch the movie. “Willlllsooooon!”)
His third straight winter of impending free-agency (“Franchise Tag U: Electric Boogaloo III”) is pretty much all we talked about last winter, spring, and summer. I remember taking calls about it during the frozen month of February during Super Bowl Week. I remember chatter about it during the glorious east coast springtime around the draft. I remember listening to Bruce Allen’s “we gave him our best offer” presser while sweating through my shirt mowing the lawn in the dead of July.
And now because the team essentially crapped out on 2017 last Thursday night against the Cowboys, it’s right back to where we left off with him. Just kill me.
Nobody’s mind has been changed along the way, either. Even though Kirk has produced at the same Top-5 rate he’s established the last two seasons, the arguments against him have remained constant. (Namely: “What have we won WITH him?”)
The potential machinations of Franchise Tag vs. Transition Tag are interesting, and worthy of debate. I’m happy to walk through them as part of the discussion. But let’s instead focus not on what’s technically POSSIBLE, and instead on what is SELLABLE.
Remember: we’re a marketing company that happens to play football on Sundays. It’s always… SELL, SELL, SELL!
What Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen want – what they NEED – is a post-Cousins narrative that passes the sniff test and doesn’t end up with them naked wearing beer barrels on suspenders.
Enter Garappolo. The devilishly handsome Tom Brady Understudy. Virtually no miles on him, and trained under the master Jedi himself. Better yet, Garappolo has never thrown a backbreaking pick at 8-6-1 to end his team’s playoff hopes at home. He’s a blank slate, upon which any team who gets him can project their wildest football dreams.
Both Cousins and Garappolo are scheduled to be free agents. Both will no doubt be franchised tagged if needed. Franchise tagged players can be traded, and have been traded. I don’t recall having a trade of one-for-another, but there’s nothing against it. And it makes perfect sense. Here’s why.
I have no doubt that Kyle Shanahan LOVES Kirk Cousins beyond description. Kyle also knows (and this is every bit as important, if not more so) just what the Redskins brass thinks of him, and how they operate. Kyle surely knows that Dan and Bruce are tired of being outflanked by their good but not great, contractually gutsy QB, who has won nothing yet thinks he should be paid more than Aaron Rodgers.
“But wait, Kyle just GOT his guy in Garappolo,” you say. Oh yeah, says who? That deal was one of the ODDEST DUCKS you’ll ever see in the NFL. A winless team, headed for a top-5 pick (at worst) in a rich QB draft. Plus, the Niners have a projected $110 million in cap space for next year. I don’t even know how that’s possible! But suffice to say, they have more than enough to splurge on Cousins.
But only IF the Redskins dare to hit him with a transition tag can they even back up that Brinks truck. And remember, Kyle KNOWS this front office. He knows they are NOT going to let Kirk walk out that door clean. No way. They would rather pay Kirk $34 million again next year, still draft a young QB in May, and then declare an open competition in camp before they would just let Kirk walk.
So back to that trade for Jimmy G: WHY? Why would the Niners ship a 2nd round pick for a short-term, about-to-get-paid QB in his prime when they are winless. And then, WHY would the Niners keep him in bubble wrap for three weeks while lying about how much they JUST LOVE future Ryan Fitzpatrick clone, CJ Beathard?
In a word: options.
In a perfect world, the Niners would have NEVER played Garappolo this year had Beathard not gotten hurt. Because now that Jimmy G is playing, a few complicating developments could occur. He could play GREAT, which would make it much harder to sell to their fans and front office to ship him out for Cousins. He could play like CRAP, which would cool the Redskins jets to get him. And he could get HURT, ala Teddy Bridgewater and then you not only can’t count on him as a starter, you can’t even trade him. You might just have to let him go.
In a way, this trade was the photo-negative of the Sam Bradford to Minnesota trade of a year ago. In that case, a complete team with playoff aspirations, gave up a lot for a plug-and-play veteran and rushed him into service immediately. In this case, a zombie team stocked with draft picks and cap space, gave up very little for an enticing, yet unproven, mystery.
Then they tried to bury him.
It’s stinky. But brilliant.
To ensure the Redskins don’t “spite-tag” Kirk an exorbitant 3rd-straight time (and don’t scoff, we’re in the “George Costanza drives to the Hamptons with the future in-laws” territory on this bluff) and to ensure they don’t have to fight for Kirk on the open market, the Niners needed the ONE thing that would get the Redskins all lathered up: an arguably better, younger, slightly cheaper QB.
So it goes like this: when the off-season comes, the Skins and Niners start talking trade of their franchise tagged QBs. They work out a rough deal. Then each team tells their QB to have preliminary discussions on new long-term deals in their new city. Kirk is ecstatic and hammers out a massive deal with Kyle and Niners. Garappolo is happy to at least come to Washington, where there is much more of an actual “team” in place right now, and he can work with a great offensive mind in Jay Gruden to get his career as a starter off and running. The Skins give Garappolo a YUGE deal, but one that ends up about 10-15% south of what Cousins gets from the insanely flush with cash Niners.
It would be a “trade-and-sign” (not sign-and-trade) which is perfectly legal, and what the Chiefs did when they got a franchise tagged (then rescinded) Matt Cassel from the Patriots.
Then, we get to the SELL. And this is paramount. I can see the beaming faces of Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen next spring, with the devilishly handsome Jimmy G between them at the podium. I can write their “pitch” to the media already. “We loved Kirk, but he was going to be too much money. Look instead who we GOT, and we think he’s even better!”
And knowing the Redskins, they may end up throwing a 2nd round pick back to SF as a “sweetener” in the deal, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. After all, San Fran has the leverage in this deal, because they have the options. They could keep Garappolo, and leave Dan and Bruce to their perennial Kirk Cousins headache.
Make no mistake: I’m not ADVOCATING for this. Jimmy G could be Cassell 2.0. Who knows!? I still want Cousins paid here, longterm. But it’s pretty obvious that the Redskins front office just isn’t that into him. And the only reason I think this crazy outcome is on the table, is because of Kyle. Any other team, any other coach, I don’t even tweet this, much less bang out (looks down at word count) 1300+ words on this.
It’s the only way the Skins brass can save face. It’s the most “sellable” outcome. It has to happen.