Jimmy Garoppolo may not be the highest paid player in NFL history for long.
His contract was nice — nominally. But Kirk Cousins is about to get paid real money. Garoppolo reset the quarterback market. Cousins and the rest of the quarterbacks hitting the market may just break it.
The biggest difference between Cousins’ impending deal and Garoppolo’s consummated deal will be guaranteed money. Cousins may earn roughly the same in total dollars: $27.5 million per year. But Cousins will get what Garoppolo didn’t: security.
Garoppolo is guaranteed $50.1 million — just 36.4 percent of his entire contract. The 49ers can find ways to get off the hook for the remaining $87.4 million. Admittedly, things would have to go terribly wrong for Garoppolo not to get any of that money, but things go terribly wrong in the NFL all the time. Cousins and his agent Mike McCartney will protect themselves from disaster scenarios. They’ll get Cousins the deal the Redskins kept him from getting with the franchise tag.
So while Garoppolo’s contract is comprised of conditional promises, Cousins’ deal will include terms of unconditional financial commitment. Frankly, they’ll be terms of financial surrender.
Who’s willing to marry themselves to Cousins for the next half-decade? Probably six NFL teams. The Denver Broncos, the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills, the Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings could all pursue Cousins.
Cousins doesn’t have Jimmy GQ’s swagger, but he does have more than eight starts in the NFL. Cousins has won more than eight games, he’s thrown for more than Garoppolo’s 12 touchdowns, and he’s thrown for more than Garoppolo’s 2,250 passing yards.
Cousins has dwarfed those statistics with 26 wins, 16,206 passing yards and 99 touchdowns in his career.
Cousins is a more proven entity. He’s not a “winner” quite like Garoppolo. But one of those NFL teams (listed above) won’t care about Cousins’ record as a starter (26-30-1) or his record in the playoffs (0-1). The Broncos, who have made a habit of winning no matter who is at quarterback — until 2017 — will yearn for Cousins with his four consecutive seasons with 4,000 or more passing yards, his career completion percentage of 65.5 percent and his interception percentage resting below 2.5 for the last three seasons.
That’s a consistent body of work with which an NFL team can win games, even if the Redskins were unable to do so. And let’s be honest — they’re the Redskins, who may be 7-9 most seasons, but are consistently one of the worst managed teams in the NFL. Cousins’ inability to win should change when put in a healthier work environment.
When Cousins begins negotiations with NFL teams, he’ll start by pointing to Garoppolo’s deal. And he’ll say, let’s start there. Some teams will step away from the table. The two or three that remain will fight over Cousins, and will work up his guaranteed figure until his contract dwarfs Garoppolo’s deal.