Sport Kirk Cousins deal represents evolution of modern NFL free agency

03:25  14 march  2018
03:25  14 march  2018 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Kirk Cousins signing a contract worth almost million per year is mind-boggling to former NFL exec Jeff Diamond. When free agency began 25 years ago, that amount of money was roughly the salary cap for an entire team.

Kirk Cousins signing a contract worth almost million per year is mind-boggling to former NFL exec Jeff Diamond. When free agency began 25 years ago, that amount of money was roughly the salary cap for an entire team.

In this 25th year of modern NFL free agency, it's mind-boggling for this former GM to believe that one player, Kirk Cousins, will be signed for almost $30 million per year on the open market. The entire salary cap back in its 1994 debut was $34.6 million per team.

That's how much the cap and the resulting free agency contracts have changed over the past quarter century. We're talking about this season's cap at $177.2 million, plus extra money for teams that had cap space left over from last year.

That's more than five times what it was when I was signing players for the Vikings as the new CBA introduced free agency to the NFL.

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  NFL free agent rumors: Kirk Cousins market heats up, Vikings believed to be favorites The Redskins opted to part ways with Cousins this offseason, trading for Alex Smith.Quarterback Kirk Cousins is among the biggest names on the open market after the Redskins opted to trade for Alex Smith instead of re-signing Cousins. But the Pro Bowl QB may benefit from Washington's decision.

They agreed to give Kirk Cousins , an average quarterback, a fully guaranteed three-year deal , a source confirmed to Bleacher Report. The Cousins contract is emblematic of how free agency is the NFL 's stupid season.

2018 NFL free agency . Kirk Cousins . Jimmy Graham. Cousins ' representation could have structured the deal in such a way to virtually ensure that he saw at least four years of that money, given that top-tier quarterbacks almost always make it to the next-to-last year in their deal .


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In that 1994 season, I traded for a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Warren Moon and signed him to a two-year, $5.5 million deal. He was available because the Oilers had salary cap issues and decided to keep Cody Carlson over Moon.

Good move for us, as Moon led our team to a division title. Bad move for the Oilers, who went 2-14. Moon today would easily be in the $20 million-plus-per-year QB club.

I envy today's GMs with their salary cap increases of $10 million-plus every year, fueled by dramatic jumps in league revenues mostly stemming from TV deals, plus incredible jumps in stadium revenue from palaces such as Jerry World/AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

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Kirk Cousins . Once the three-year deal is officially signed after Wednesday’s start of the NFL calendar year, Spielman will have landed the franchise quarterback that has eluded him during two tenures as a general manager. DIAMOND: Cousins deal represents evolution of modern NFL free agency .

As NFL free agency approaches, we have a rare sight to behold: a true, unrestricted free agent quarterback with experience, productivity and relative youth at the game’s most important and valuable position. Kirk Cousins will finally avoid the franchise tag

GMs and their capologists still have to do lots of planning and projecting, but for the most part, they're not squeezed like we were back in the day. We would usually see minuscule-by-comparison cap increases of $1 million-$2 million in maximum team salary from year to year. It crept up by $700,000 from 1996 to ’97.

I remember always being tight against the cap and stressed about how we would get in compliance. This was the case for the vast majority of teams who were in a frenzy to get under the cap before the start of the new league year in March, and I worked with a lot of playoff teams, which made things even tighter. Lots of veteran players who were fringe starters or projected backups with descending talent became victims of either pay cuts or outright release. It was a painful time, as I remember having to approach far too many vets and their agents and say we couldn't afford them.

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  NFL free agency rumors: Kirk Cousins wined, dined (signed?) by Vikings Cousins is expected to sign a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid player.“Had a great visit,” Cousins told reporters (via the Twin Cities Pioneer Press). “Looking forward to (Thursday). Going to be able to see more of the city and the facility. It’s a great organization and my wife and I are thrilled to be here.

When Kirk Cousins agreed to terms to become the Minnesota Vikings' new quarterback, he did more than simply conclude the biggest storyline in free agency . NFL mourns death of longtime coach Tony Sparano. Vikings first-round pick Hughes signs rookie deal .

2018 NFL free agency . Kirk Cousins . Jimmy Graham. The Redskins' coveted QB holds leverage that would make it almost impossible for Washington to deal the pending free agent this offseason.

It quickly became a necessary strategy for me to extend our top players such as Cris Carter or John Randle in Minnesota, or Steve McNair or Eddie George in Tennessee. I would tell the players and their agents it was a wise move to avoid the risk of injury or declining performance. I also knew all it took was one team out of 32 to overpay your player if he reached free agency, which was the case with our starting right tackle John Runyan, a good player but not a Pro Bowler, in 2000 after the Titans' Super Bowl season.

The Eagles made Runyan the highest-paid tackle in the league at $5 million per year, and we couldn't afford the cap hit with such a deal due to our mature payroll. I also had to match a huge Miami offer for Randle, a future Hall of Famer, when he did decide to test the market in 1998.


Tracking all signings, trades, cuts

a football player holding a baseball bat: Kirk Cousins © (Getty Images) Kirk Cousins

It seems like there were so many more contract restructures done in the years before we started to see these huge spikes in the cap. I'll never forget our Pro Bowl left tackle Brad Hopkins dashing into the office 15 minutes before the midnight deadline in 2000 to sign his restructured contract (with base salary converted to signing bonus that would be pro-rated over several years, which lowered his cap number so we could get under the then league-mandated cap max of $62.2 million). Such a scenario is not a worry today for the vast majority of teams.

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Despite guaranteed deal , Kirk Cousins likely didn’t set new precedent for NFL free agents . “Everyone likes to talk about comparables when you negotiate a contract,” said one agent who represents multiple NFL quarterbacks.

The Vikings' Kirk Cousins signing in NFL free agency is a splurge. Spielman, though, figured it’s worth the risk. And why not? DIAMOND: Cousins deal represents evolution of modern NFL free agency .

The beneficiaries of the tight caps in those early free agency years became late-round draft picks and undrafted players. They made active rosters with much greater frequency because teams needed their low salaries to offset the higher-priced star players.

That still happens today, but with so much cap room available for so many teams, there's generally less pressure on GMs to cut a player before the start of the new league year unless he has a large roster bonus. The smart agents negotiate hard for big March bonuses so their players can hit the open market early in free agency if a team deems them expendable.

A few other things are much different today. Guarantees other than signing bonuses were almost non-existent, and they are prevalent today. In the early years of free agency, there rarely was a trade that occurred until draft time, as we were in the mode of cutting salaries, releasing players and restructuring deals. Other GMs correctly figured if a team was shopping a player, it probably was going to have to release him. Any trades were at cut-rate prices, such as the third- and fourth-round picks I sent to Houston for Moon, who had been selected to the previous six Pro Bowls.

There were a dozen trades in the last few weeks, as GMs with an abundance of cap room had a lot more leverage in their trade talks and could truthfully say they didn't have to make a trade.

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Kirk Cousins , going on three offseasons, is a highly coveted commodity in NFL free agency . Cousins represents some stability and would inherit two top veteran receivers and a promising power running game.

The true precedent in the Cousins deal is that its three-year term leaves the player with all the Top Events NBA NFL MLB NHL NCAAF NCAAB Soccer. Kirk Cousins Contract: The Real So far this NFL free agency , the San Francisco 49ers made some bold additions (Jerick McKinnon, Richard

One thing that has not changed since the cap/free agency system arrived: The bulk of contract signings take place in March and April. Before unrestricted free agency hit the NFL, agents would wait until just before the start of training camp or several days into camp to put their best foot forward in negotiations, because the players' only leverage was to threaten a training camp holdout.

That was my favorite part about the arrival of the cap system, as there became a perception that deals had to get done quickly before a team's cap money dried up. Today, teams even get a two-day legal tampering window to start negotiations — as if they haven't been talking with agents for the past two months, which has been the case since the dawn of free agency in the 90s.

That change in the agents' approach to signing earlier made June and July much more enjoyable months. A GM could actually take a vacation since there was basically just the draft class left to sign. And with the advent of the rookie wage scale in the 2011 CBA, negotiating draft choice contracts became a lot easier for team execs than it was in my day.


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I'm certainly not saying today’s GMs have it easy. The huge deals put targets on GMs, as they did when I was signing what I thought were super expensive deals. I sweated it out when I had to match a $5 million-per-year offer (equal to the top of the running back market) for our leading Vikings rusher Robert Smith in 1998. Smith had often been hurt early in his career, but fortunately, he played up to the contract.

It’s no different today for GMs such as the Giants' Dave Gettleman as he ponders a potential $15 million-$18 million-per-year deal (or a trade) for his diva receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is coming off a broken ankle and has repeated behavioral question marks to boot.

But at least Gettleman has $20 million or so in cap space as he figures it all out.

I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven had I been given that luxury.

Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He makes speaking appearances to corporate/civic groups and college classes on Negotiation and Sports Business/Sports Management. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL.


NFL free agency rumors: Broncos never made offer for Kirk Cousins .
Despite reports Broncos were clearing millions in cap space to sign Kirk Cousins and Von Miller was "all in," Denver didn't bid on star QB.Cousins' agent told The MMQB that because the Broncos didn't make the move to sign the star QB he held a "silent auction" with the Vikings, Jets and Cardinals. Nearly an hour after Cousins' agent began fielding offers from the three teams, the Broncos signed QB Case Keenum on a two-year, $36 million contract.

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