Kirk Cousins is statistically putting together a very nice season so far. I wanted to see, a third of the way through the campaign, if I could collect enough information to accurately predict what it will take for the Redskins to bring him back for 2018.
I decided there are four key metrics I’d need to help work out how a QB deserves to be paid:
- Their age (by seasons end)
- Their statistical “worth”
- The current value of the QB market
- The current NFL cap situation
With that, I set about trying to elegantly find some usable metrics to break down a contract.
The age of the QB by the end of the season. Pretty self-explanatory.
Stick with me here, there are a lot of numbers involved. There is no one-stop-shop when it comes to using numbers for contract negotiations, and a lot of QB numbers are fairly empty. So I took all the ones I think have merit and combined them all to make a formula. The stats include:
- Yards per game
- Completion %
- Touchdowns per game
- Interceptions per game
- Passer rating (which I fully admit as a single-game stat is fairly worthless, but as a very rough macro-view at the end of the season gives you a fair idea where on the good-bad spectrum a QB should be placed)
- Total QBR
- 4th quarter comebacks
- Game winning drives
- Rushing statistics
Fairly basic stuff, all of which I’m sure agents highlight the importance of during negotiations.
I took them all, normalized them against the competition, added some of my own weightings for importance, and melted the whole thing to represent a number out of 10.
Here are the Statistical Worth rankings since Cousins became starter:
Kirk shows extremely strong Statistical Worth compared to his piers (side note – expect Alex Smith’s 2017 outlier to come down!).
QB Market & Cap Situation
Again there is no definitive statistic to easily define what a QB is worth. For simplicity, I have taken the top three cap hits of QB’s each year, taken the average, then taken that as a percentage of the overall NFL cap number.
The 2018 Cap number is an estimate, based on the average growth of the cap of between 7-8% over the last four years.
The very interesting thing to note here is that the very top QB pay has actually decreased as a % of the overall cap number and is likely set to continue another dip in 2018 with the hits of Stafford, Carr and Flacco making up the average. This plays wonderfully into Cousins hands as his agent will immediately be able to highlight the larger amount of (at this stage theoretical) cap space the team will have to spend on a star player.
So let’s take the Statistical Worth Value, marry it up with the QB Market & Cap Situation, and apply it to comparable QB’s from recent years who have also signed new deals. Statistical Worth now factors in 3 years worth of scores, with recent seasons being weighted more heavily. That table looks like this:
Stick with me again and I’ll attempt to break this down. The left-hand side of the table represents the required metrics and the right-hand side contains details of the actual deal signed by the player.
- AAV – the Annual Average Value of the contract (total value divided by number of years)
- AAV% – The AAV as a % of the total available cap space at time of signing
- Full Gtd per Year – The fully guaranteed money divided by the number of years
- Full Gtd % – the Full Gtd per Year as a % of the total available cap space at time of signing
Now there are some notable details here which I haven’t included as part of my overall metrics. Firstly are playoff stats, which I’m currently not factoring in. Secondly is round/pick where the player was drafted. Both of these factors are heavily involved when looking at the deals signed by Flacco, Luck and Newton despite their poorer regular season statistical worth.
The Case for Cousins
Cousins has the following things working heavily in his favour:
- Extremely high statistical worth (as of Week 6)
- An increasing salary cap
- An unusual QB pay anomaly which, unless in the highly unlikely scenario where QB salaries begin to plateau, somebody is going to get the chance to fill. Nobody is better placed than Cousins
- In addition to the extra cap space allocated by the NFL, the Redskins are due to currently carry just under $59m in cap over to 2018 – 4th most in the league (this isn’t factored in to above calculations)
Working against Cousins:
- Little pedigree in terms of draft pick status
- Lack of playoff success
However, it seems offsetting both of these factors is the massive slice of leverage he has coming off back-to-back franchise tags and the ability to hold the team to ransom by heading into true Free Agency as a 30 year old QB entering his prime, with tangible statistical worth.
Cousins is about to go to market with a Statistical Worth in the upper-echelons of QB’s entering contract negotiations in recent years. Combined with the luxurious cap position the Redskins find themselves in, I predict, based on all the findings above, it will take the following for the Redskins to extend him:
I believe Cousins agent will drive hard to lift the recent dip in QB Market %, combined with the increasing Cap I can see him hitting $30m per season, or 16.67% AAV%. I also believe Flacco’s Full Gtd % probably won’t be beaten, but Stafford’s will. Cousins is playing at a high enough level to set a new benchmark.
The guarantee remains a rough estimation, and for sake of cleanliness $14m is my guess, which multiplied by 5 would obviously be $70m in fully guaranteed money. Note this is only the fully guaranteed amount of money. With contracts being creative and dynamic, it’s much harder to accurately predict the total guarantees as they often contain incentives and options for the team to get out. With that in mind, I would predict the total guarantees to be in the $100m ballpark.
Meaning when it’s all said and done, I expect if Cousins signs with the Redskins the headlines will read:
5 years – $150m with $100m guaranteed
It will sound eye-wateringly high to many, but I believe based on all the information available, this is a fair deal.