The big news of the day was that the Oakland Raiders and QB Derek Carr are nearing a massive deal, expected to approach $25 million per year over the life of the contract, while also making the young player the highest paid in the league. 49ers beat writer Chris Biderman took the opportunity to connect some dots, questioning how this may affect the 49ers in 2018. Of course, the article is centered around the belief that Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins could end up signing with the 49ers after the 2017 season.
According to OTC, there are 9 current QBs (pre-Carr signing, as of the writing of this edition of the Nuggets) with a value that meets or exceeds $20 million in cap charge for 2017. Furthermore, Spotrac lists 13 QBs with deals that meet or exceed $20 million per year overall. 4 of them have deals that meet or exceed $100 million total. Derek Carr is expected to join at least two of those clubs in short order, perhaps even surpassing Andrew Luck’s $47 million signing bonus. While there is no doubt that the recently-turned 26 year old Carr deserves every penny, some questions have been raised about how this might affect Cousins’ possible chance at free agency - contingent on not becoming the first NFL player since Walter Jones, 2002-2004, to be franchised thrice consecutively.
While Cousins was quite impressive in his two years as “the guy”, there is the matter that he will turn 30 before the start of the 2018 season. An argument could be made that he hasn’t absorbed the amount of hits usually associated with a 30 year old QB in talks for a headline making contract, but the age should nevertheless lead to some pause. If we were to consider just the numbers from the 2015 and 2016 seasons, we truncate the non-starting years of Kirk Cousins, and discount Carr’s relatively (to his standards) pedestrian rookie campaign. Over those two years, Carr’s 60:19 TD:INT ratio led Cousins’ 54:23, but he fell behind in many other major categories, specifically connecting on passes. Both QBs threw around 1150 passes, with Carr connecting on about a hundred less than Cousins’ 800. Carr’s 62.4% completion percentage, while good, pales in comparison to Cousins’ 68.3% - which has led to a nearly .75 yards/attempt difference between the pair. Frequently criticized metrics QBR and Passer Rating confirm an edge to Cousins.
Touching back on the OTC & Spotrac numbers from earlier, 4 of those 13 in the $20 million/year range are under 30 - including two QBs with Superbowl experience (Carolina QB Cam Newton, Seattle QB Russell Wilson), and NFL golden boy Andrew Luck. Rounding out the 4th spot is frequently-franchised Kirk Cousins. Adding Carr, we’re now left with 4 QBs who earned their first enormous contract at an appropriate age, after finding early success on a traditional path. Then, there’s Cousins. Statistically speaking, he’s an extremely valuable quarterback, but there’s some risk involved with signing a near-30 year old QB, who only has two years of starting experience, to the kind of deal afforded to 26 year old superstars.
Biderman’s conclusion that Cousins would earn a 2018 deal commensurate with Carr’s ultimately doesn’t seem accurate to me. In 2014, 31 year old Alex Smith earned his first major extension with the Kansas City Chiefs, after several years of efficient play. His 2015 cap hit placed him as the 9th most expensive QB that year, after Bears QB Jay Cutler, and 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. While Cousins is clearly a better QB than 2014 Alex Smith, I think the structure of his deal ends up closer to Smith’s, as opposed to blockbuster deals like Luck earned, and Carr is expected to earn. I think it would make a lot of sense to give him a very respectable 4 year contract, at perhaps $22m/year, which would place his cap hit (just assuming $22 million for convenience) for 2018 at 5th, tied with Patriots QB Tom Brady (on what could be described as a “team friendly deal”), and above Russell Wilson.
The worst case scenario, signing him to a 6 year bank breaking deal, is that we end up like the 2018 Ravens - taking a $25 million cap hit for Joe Flacco. A deal commensurate to Carr’s could absolutely wreck this team. Paying Cousins in line with guys who have sustained their success for longer, and at younger ages, is a mistake that I hope the 49ers will not make.
To the links.
RB Carlos Hyde highly ranked in positive yards after contact | Lowder, Ninerswire
How QB Derek Carr’s upcoming contract could affect 2018 49ers | Biderman, Ninerswire
On Reuben Foster’s 2016 top-ranked PFF grade | Lowder, Ninerswire
Top 25 2017 Niners: #20, Zane Beadles | Biderman, Ninerswire
On PFF’s 4-12 projection for 2017 Niners | Biderman, Ninerswire
Kyle Shanahan’s points in building the play-action | Barrows, Sac Bee
Which 3 or 4 of the team’s 6 NFL-worthy TEs will make the roster? | Barrows, Sac Bee
Former 49ers digital content manager on 2017 standouts | Bonilla, 49erswebzone
Safety Eric Reid given chance to excel at Strong Safety | Williams, NBC Bay Area
How fast is WR Marquise Goodwin? | Martin, 49ers.com