Written by Joel Corey at CBS Sports.com
Most trades leading up to or during the NFL Draft (April 27-29) are for current or future draft choices instead of veteran players. Draft picks are the most cost-effective players in the NFL. Their salaries are determined by a rookie wage scale that doesn’t pay productive ones anything close to their true worth.
NBA teams and the Patriots take a more enlightened approach to trading veterans. Signability is more of a primary consideration with moves involving players in a contract year. There are differences in NBA and NFL free agency rules. Compensatory draft picks for lost free agents do not exist in the NBA.
The “Patriot Way” is to get rid of a player a year too early rather than a year too late, whether it’s trading or releasing a player. The Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl champions, didn’t miss a beat last season after jettisoning arguably their best two defensive players from 2015. Chandler Jones was dealt to the Cardinals early last offseason for a 2016 second-round pick (61st overall) and guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft, since pass rushers are paid a premium. The Patriots weren’t going to pay Jones the going rate for productive pass rushers, which is in the neighborhood of $17 million per year, with over $50 million in guarantees.
Linebacker Jamie Collins turned down an extension of $11 million per year during training camp, which was the Pats’ impetus for dealing him to the Browns as last season’s trading deadline approached. Instead of waiting until next year to receive a third-round compensatory selection at best for Collins leaving in free agency, the Patriots took a third-round compensatory pick in this year’s draft (103rd overall) from the Browns.
The Eagles and Ravens made one of those infrequent trades involving a player last week. Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan was acquired by the Eagles in a swap of third-round picks. The Eagles dropped down 25 spots to the 99th overall pick while the Ravens moved up to the 74th overall pick. The Ravens re-signing Jernigan, who is entering his contract year, was unlikely after they retained free-agent defensive tackle Brandon Williams with a five-year, $52.5 million deal containing $27.5 million in guarantees.
Here are five veteran players that NFL teams should seriously consider trading in the days leading up or during the NFL Draft using the Patriot Way or adopting an NBA philosophy.
Kirk Cousins QB / Washington
Trade compensation: 2018 first-round pick and 2017 second-round pick (34th overall)
Redskins president Bruce Allen confirmed to The MMQB’s Albert Breer at the NFL’s annual owners meetings in late March that Cousins was offered a five-year extension over the $23,943,600 franchise tag he’s currently scheduled to play under this season. According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, this is the same $20 million per year offer with “low” guarantees that was made around the time of the NFL combine in late February. The offer is below the average of 2016’s top 15 quarterback deals, which is approximately $21.225 million per year.
Structure is everything with NFL contracts, since the deals aren’t fully guaranteed. Any Redskins offer with less than $40 million fully guaranteed at signing won’t be taken seriously by Cousins’ camp. The five-year, $75 million contract the Redskins gave free-agent cornerback Josh Norman last April with a player-friendly structure had $36.5 million fully guaranteed at signing.
Allen indicated that the Redskins are committed to getting Cousins signed before the July 15 deadline that franchise players have for long-term deals. It’s probably going to take a contract in the same ballpark as the five-year extension Andrew Luck received from the Colts last offseason, which reset the NFL pay scale, to lock up Cousins long-term. Luck’s contract averages $24.594 million per year and contains $87 million in guarantees, of which $47 million was fully guaranteed at signing.
There’s a lot of skepticism about the Redskins ever getting into this territory for Cousins. Waiting is going to make signing Cousins more difficult for the Redskins because Derek Carr, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford are in line for offseason extensions from the Raiders, Falcons and Lions that should eclipse $25 million per year.
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