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Three years, $91 million fully guaranteed for Kirk Cousins is a stretch

Three years, $91 million fully guaranteed for Kirk Cousins is a stretch

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With free agency a week away, it’s important to separate the wheat from the crap. And there’s one specific report that seems more like crap than wheat.

Via KFAN, former Washington tight end Chris Cooley (who now has a radio show in D.C.) says that an agent told Cooley the Vikings will offer quarterback Kirk Cousins a fully-guaranteed three-year, $91 million contract. I quickly dismissed it when Paul Allen of KFAN asked about it during a Tuesday chat on his weekday radio show. But given that it keeps popping up, the time is right to point out the flaws.

First, the Vikings seem to be very sensitive about the importance of keeping enough cash and cap space available to retain as many of their other great players as possible. Committing $91 million fully guaranteed over the next three years will complicate that objective, dramatically.

Second, the current high-water mark for quarterbacks sits at $27.5 million annually. $30.33 million per year would represent an implausible spike, skipping over a slower progression of $28 million, $28.5 million, $29 million, $29.5 million, and $30 million.

Third, if the $91 million will be fully guaranteed, the Vikings would have to put the bulk of that money in escrow right now. For that reason, most teams resist fully guaranteed payments beyond two years. Only one — the Dolphins — have fully guaranteed the first three years of a contract, giving Ndamukong Suh $60 million at signing to cover 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Fourth, if the Vikings were to offer that much over three years, the Vikings would surely want more years on the back end, both for cap purposes (allowing the signing bonus to be spread over a longer period of time) and to give the Vikings the opportunity to keep Cousins under contract longer, if they choose to keep him beyond the guaranteed years.

Fifth, given that the Vikings have a better team than the Jets, the Vikings should be able to get Cousins for less than what the Jets would pay. And the Jets surely aren’t willing to fork over $91 million over three years, either.

While Cousins will indeed get paid, it would be a surprise if he hits an average of $30 million per year. If would be a shock if he gets to $30.33 million per year, fully guaranteed, on a contract that covers only three years.