Cousins pick a head-scratcher

Redskins' fourth-round decision lacked logic and is potentially problematic

Originally Published: May 1, 2012
By Andrew Brandt | ESPN.com

The Redskins' fourth-round selection of quarterback Kirk Cousins is as puzzling a pick as there was in the 2012 draft.

I've heard the rationalizations: He plays a different style than Robert Griffin III, he'll be a valuable backup, etc. However, after mortgaging their future for Griffin, the Redskins will have a problem if any other quarterback is playing.

The Redskins didn't just spend their 2012 first-round pick on Griffin. As per the trade terms, they spent their first two picks this year and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. And then, for a team with obvious needs elsewhere, the Skins spent another pick on a quarterback. Strange.

This is not similar to the Packers, Eagles and other teams drafting quarterbacks to develop behind established veterans. And this is not an open competition where the best player plays.

Griffin is the face of the franchise; his brand has started to re-energize a fan base dulled by recent failures at quarterback (20,000 people attended his press conference!). He'll make about $22 million over the next four years, with about $15 million this year. He is their present and future.

Then what about Cousins? Well, the Redskins need to hope he becomes Mr. August -- showing great promise in the preseason -- and he harvests a higher future pick via a trade than the fourth-round pick he cost.

I understand the Redskins need a backup quarterback, but taking Cousins when they did was mystifying.

[+] EnlargeAsante Samuel
AP Photo/Mel EvansOnce a prized free agent, Asante Samuel was dealt for a seventh-round pick.

Asante's adventure

The Eagles' pre-draft trade of cornerback Asante Samuel to the Falcons for a seventh-round pick was a something-is-better-than-nothing situation. Samuel's fate was sealed last year, when Philadelphia acquired cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from Arizona for QB Kevin Kolb. Rodgers-Cromartie had two years left on his contract at the time; now he'll step into Samuel's starting position for the bargain price of $1.13 million while the Eagles evaluate him for a possible extension.

Samuel's decline from "first hour" free-agent signing to being traded for the 229th pick in the draft demonstrates the shortening shelf life for even top-tier NFL players. The Eagles would have traded Samuel, four years removed from their treasured signing, for a ham sandwich.

Cold business

Speaking of players being discarded, one of my roles back when I was in the Packers' war room was to ask the questions that needed to be considered, such as, "If we take this guy, who does it push off the roster?" In NFL roster management, for every action there's a reaction. I wanted everyone aware of the ramifications of a potential release: cap complications, locker room unrest, relationships with agents who have other players on the team, etc.

Between now and September, hundreds of NFL players will feel a negative impact from these incoming players. Already, the Jaguars, after drafting a punter in the third round -- hey, we also took a punter in the third round when I was with the Packers in 2004 -- have told other punters on their roster that their services won't be needed. This is the constant churn of the NFL: so many players, so few jobs.

Agent games

In the business of the NFL, teams do pay attention to which agents are representing players, although less so now with reduced negotiation items in the new CBA. This year's first-round scorecard has a very familiar ring to it, devoid of unknown agents who occasionally sneak up and have a top-round client.

CAA (Creative Artists Agency), the powerful group that recently added top agent Jimmy Sexton to its roster, was able to get the most bang for the buck in the draft. It is representing nine picks, including seven in the first round and six of the first 11.

Of course, representing first-round picks isn't the business that it was two years ago. Thanks to the new CBA, first-round prices are drastically reduced from 2010, when Sam Bradford received $50 million guaranteed, more than Andrew Luck and Griffin will make combined.

Fret not, however, for CAA. Based on last year's numbers, its six high first-round picks will have fully guaranteed contracts totaling about $100 million, making CAA's share -- if it is charging the maximum 3 percent -- about $3 million. Nice work if you can get it.

From the inbox

Q: What happens if a rookie gets hurt during the minicamps after the draft? They aren't going to have contracts.

Kyle in Dallas

A: Drafted players typically sign injury protection forms prior to participating in the post-draft mandatory minicamp. These forms insure payment according to their draft position even if they are injured during these camps. Agents typically try to negotiate the language in these forms, wanting specific amounts of money detailed, although teams would rather use broad language that the player will be paid "similar to other draft picks in the round." I have had negotiations over the wording of these forms that were more animated than the player's actual contract negotiation.

Q: Can a team put extra penalty clauses in a contract for a player like Janoris Jenkins?

Jeff in St. Louis

A: Negotiations on players with past character issues are always challenging. Teams may seek extra protection but the agent will -- and should -- say, "If you had those concerns, you shouldn't have drafted him where you did!" Jenkins is the 39th pick and will make a bit more than the 40th pick and a bit less than the 38th pick. As for character issues, most contracts now allow for forfeiture -- taking back bonus money due to negative behavior -- "to the extent allowed by the CBA." I would expect that language in all rookie contracts, Jenkins obviously included.

Q: With lower rookie contracts, will we start seeing more early extensions (or holdouts) after two years for players like Cam Newton?

Matt in Charlotte

A: As per the new CBA, Newton -- or any rookie -- cannot renegotiate until after his third season. The new CBA has reduced rookie guarantees, eliminated restricted free agency (all drafted rookie contracts are four years) and removed potential holdouts in the first three years of a player's career. The owners certainly put a sledgehammer to the prior rookie pay system.

Q: What was it like to make the transition from agent to team; did it help you in negotiations?

Ryan in Buffalo

A: It was invaluable and took a lot of the posturing out of the negotiations. I knew all the agents and, more importantly, knew the arguments they were using because I had used them for years before I became part of a team. Also, negotiations are about relationships, and the more you can empathize and put yourself in the other's shoes, the more it smooths the process. Several teams have hired former agents as contract negotiators since.