I have a headache.
Seriously, I have a headache when it comes to trying to figure out where the Bills should go at QB. So many names and so many different situations have raced through my head. Since 2002, you could make the case that the Bills were in play to draft/upgrade at QB in the off season for at least half of those years. To me, this is the most anticipated Bills off season I can remember. I think it is mainly due to breaking the drought and the fact that this QB off season was set in motion after the 2017 draft.
I don’t care what the Bills say in public or leak to Bills reporters about wanting to win last year. I think its bullshit and they wanted to rebuild and have a higher pick this season. You don’t trade down in the draft in the first round (Tre White trade) or trade Sammy Watkins to be better short term. Somehow, though, they defied the fricken odds and made the playoffs. I don’t know whether to shit or go blind because I have zero idea how a team with the 4th worst point deferential to ever make the playoffs since 1970 and have really mediocre stats across the board, were able to make the playoffs. This take my go over like a fart in church with my readers, but I think this team as it stands is below average.
If you put a gun to my head, I think the Bills are going to try everything they can to get into the top 10. If the Bills do that, I don’t give a flying fuck who they try and bring in as the veteran because that veteran would be on borrowed time in my opinion. Since 2006, 20 QBs were picked in the top 10 and 15 of them started at least 12 games their rookie year. (Exception: Goff/Maholmes/JaMarcus Russell/Locker/Stafford-who got hurt) If they trade up, the odds tell me that they are gonna play the guy right away. Also, this is the same organization that turned the keys to the offense to a 5th round rookie at QB, and had 4 other rookies start games.
In other words, McBeane have a history of throwing players into the fire.
So, for me, the veteran doesn’t mean dick…unless, it happens to be Kirk Cousins. Cousins is a riddle trapped in an enigma for me. When I see his stats, I feel its kind of a no-brainer to want him as a QB (More on that later), but I feel the Twitter/Buffalo perspective is that we shouldn’t want him or that McBeane would wanna go elsewhere.
While I tend to agree with the latter, I’m still not exactly sure about the hate. Maybe it is that fans/media are cheap or that some assume the Bills aren’t going to be in that race, so, let’s shit on that idea anyway. So, for this piece, I’m gonna lay out what Cousins brings to the table.
Are stats for losers?
As a box score scout (Friend of the site, Rob Quinn, called me that once), Cousins’ stats are really impressive.
Here’s where Cousins/Washington stats rank since 2015:
Passing Yards- 4th most
Team scoring- 10th most
YPA- 4th most
Passes completed- 4th most
Passes attempted- 6th most.
QB Rating with at least 16 starts- 6th best
300 yard games- 3rd most (19 games)
When I read these stats, I’m asking myself
1) What the fuck is Dan Snyder thinking?
2) When can we send the Pegula plane to pick him up and woooooo him?
I think the biggest knock on Cousins is his win/loss record. Since 2015, he has the 4th most losses by a starting QB and has only two more wins than Tyrod Taylor. The thing is, W/L record for QBs can be misleading. For one, how much of a supporting cast does that QB have? I’ve been yelling from the roof tops that the Bills didn’t do a good enough job in surrounding Tyrod with talent on defense and on offense. I wouldn’t say Cousins is as extreme as Tyrod with lack of supporting cast, but it sure as hell wasn’t a Nick Foles situation. Let’s start with the defense and some stats.
Rankings in points given up:
2015- 17th most
2017- 27th most
Yards given up:
2016- 5th most
So, for the most part, it appears the defense he’s had has been kind of trashy. What about the running game? Has the rushing attack helped Cousins?
Yards per rushing attempt:
2017- 4th worst (3.6 YPA)
2016- 8th best (4.5 YPA)
2015- 4th worst (3.7 YPA)
We got one really good year and two shit years. Now what about his pass catchers/coaching? He’s had top tier coaching with Jay Gruden and Matthew Fairburn doppelganger -Sean McVay- as his OC. That’s about as good as it can get in this league with coaching. Now, in terms of WRs/TEs, Washington has had some proven skilled players that proved themselves before Kirk Cousins came into their lives (Pierre Garcon/DeSean Jackson). However, this past season they lost both their starting WRs to FA and TE Jordan Reed to injury (missed 11 games). What was left? Vernon Davis, who has been up and down during his career, and Jamison Crowder (because you box scout, you don’t realize Jamison Crowder was and is good) who is a 3rd year player drafted in the 4th round and was basically their #3 WR prior to this year. What happened to Cousins stats? They dipped, albeit, not that horrifying. He had 27TDs (2nd most in a season for him), 4,093 yards, and a QB rating of 93.9. I don’t know about you, but those stats are impressive when you consider how his skilled guys changed this past year. Additionally, Washington OL had some issues this past season with injuries as at one point had different line combinations in 6 out of 7 games and had only two OL start at least 11 games.
Before I get into the Bills cap, let’s just state this about NFL salaries and fan/media reactions. I think there’s always been a fake outrage about it that tends to be misguided.
1) It isn’t your money, so, why the hell do you care? Also, if your owner doesn’t give a fuck about spending money (See: Pegula, Terry), then why should I by the pure economics?
2) When you see a contract, part of that contract is bullshit. Case in point, when I would read Sully say “Tyrod isn’t worth 90-million dollars,” well, even if he was worth with it, he’s not getting 90-million. None of these players are. Mario Williams was a 100-million dollar player, but he didn’t get 100-million. Dockery was not a 49-million dollar guard because he never was gonna see 49-million. So, when Cousins signs for 140 Million dollars, there’s a good chance he’s not gonna make that off that deal.
3) The only time I give a shit about what they are making is when it comes to the cap number yearly and what happens to the cap if you cut that player.
4) The best player doesn’t mean he’s going to get paid the most money. It is all about timing as inflation of salaries are always gonna go up. Joe Flacco in 2013 became the highest paid player in NFL history. He had a nice run to a SB win, but we can obviously say at that point and this point, he wasn’t the best QB in the league then as his salary dictated. But the timing of his contract being up was perfect.
Outside of Peyton Manning in 2012, Cousins may be the biggest QB FA to hit the market and do the football tour ever. That’s where the timing of getting paid works for him. Is Cousins worth 30-million a year? No. But guess what? There’s like only 4 QBs who are probably worth it and the other ones are gonna get paid anyways.
Now, let’s bring the Bills cap situation into this. As of now, they are 31-million under the cap with the draft class probably costing them 6-7 million. If you cut Tyrod, your cap space will go to 40-million. Now, here’s where it can kind of work. You don’t have to give Cousins 35-million on his cap for this year. If you look at the contracts of Luck/Stafford, who are both the 1st and 2nd highest paid QBs in the league, the average number for their cap hit the first 2 years is below their regular average.
Luck-18/19 million cap number first two years and afterwards it goes to 24, 27, 28, 21 million
Stafford’s extension-16 , 26, 29, 31, and 30 million
So, if I’m going by previous huge contracts, it can be lower that first or even 2nd year. So, you are probably asking, “where are the Bills cap next year?” Well, they got space. They are 86-million under the cap. Of course, they only have 28 players under contract then, but, if your goal is to get better by drafting well, the cap number won’t mean as much because drafted talent is cheap talent until they reach year 4 or 5 and need extensions. The Bills have only Kelvin Benjamin who is due an extension after next season. That’s what happens when you get rid of Doug Whaley’s draft picks. So, if say in a fantasy world you sign Cousins for 35-million a year, you could get the cap number at 25 for this year, and have about 15-million left. At that point, you can maybe go to guys like McCoy/Clay and maybe rework their deals to free up space. That’s obviously easier said than done, but I’ve seen enough players to do that. Even if they say get lost to restructures (My assistant GM, Rich Fann, would say they would), you can probably sign like 2 players who aren’t terrible or great (Note: Poyer/Hyde cost less than 10-million annually). Again, not the best situation short-term in fixing holes via FA, but you’ll have room next year.
Draft can fill holes
When you see that the Bills have over 20 FAs, it can be very easy to go into panic mode about the roster. However, I feel a nice way to grasp that is to just look at who actually starts vs who is just a guy. For the most part, the Bills have just random dudes hitting FA. Like are we gonna panic about losing Joe Webb or would it cost a lot to sign him? No and no. The starters: Gaines, Brown, Thorton, and Kyle Williams on defense and Jordan Matthews on offense. Tell me, are you really gonna miss Jordan Matthews and Marcell Dareus’ replacement? I won’t.
Now, even with there being 5 question marks at starters, I’ve always adopted the rule that when it comes to drafting, those guys picked in round 1 and 2 should start immediately and then maybe, if you are lucky, a player from round 3-7 will eventually start their rookie year at some point. Last year was perfect example for the Bills as White, Dawkins, and Jones seemed to start pretty quickly at the starts of their careers while Matt Milano took over for Humber midway through the season. This doesn’t happen yearly, as you could draft a Cyrus Koundjio or James Hardy who are useless right away, but I tend to think it’s not difficult to ask 1st and 2nd rounders to start right away. Now, to be an impact guy right away? That’s harder. But, you can get starters right away is the point.
So, if I’m correct in my assumption [Crossing fingers], you got 4 picks in the 1st and 2nd round and those end up replacing your CB, LB, DT, and WR who are leaving. That’s it. Now, does this cure ALL the needs? No, because we don’t know if the new guys will be good or not. But, it is the 2nd year of basically a rebuild when you consider how they stripped the previous roster down. So, Rome ain’t going to be build overnight. If you are wanting the Bills to reach 12 wins next year, I don’t think that’s realistic. But if you are hoping they make the Super Bowl in 2020, these are baby steps that will become adult steps next year.
Chances of hitting in the 1st round on QB
This to me is the biggest reason why you should sign Cousins. The draft is a fricken crap shoot. Anyone who claims to be an expert is full of it. No one knew Tom Brady was gonna be Tom Brady when he was picked in the 6th round. No one knew Ryan Leaf was gonna be Ryan Leaf when he was picked #2. There are countless examples. But if you want to put a number on it, consider this. Since 1999, there have been 31 QBs picked in the top 10. Go ahead, take a look at the link and I’ll be waiting for you when you come back….OK, back? So of the 31, which are better than Cousins? I would say 12. So, by history, if the Bills trade into the top 10, its basically like a 33% you are going to find someone maybe better than Cousins.
Let’s go to picks 11-20 from 1999-present, as 11 QBs were selected then. Big Ben is better than Cousins. Culpepper in his prime before his knee was shredded was better. Flacco? coin flip. Watson? Looks good, but it is still 7 games into his career. Still, it is 7 busts to 4 good guys at best. Again, this isn’t 50/50. Now let’s go to 21-32 and check out who those 11 QBs were. Aaron Rodgers and Bridgewater – who’s a bit of a question mark. The rest? Garbage. Maybe I’m wrong to go by history, but that’s my gimmick as a box score scout and the odds are not in your favor when it comes to picking a good QB in the 1st round. Wouldn’t you rather get the known commodity over the unknown commodity?
Let’s cut to the chase…Do I think the Bills will make a run at Cousins? No. I think they’ve had this draft class on their calendar since last year. I feel them trying to get picks in first two rounds of this draft (Watkins deal/White trade down) was a way for them to try and move up. I also think Brandon Beane is very anal when it comes to current salary cap (Note: I don’t think its that bad when you consider how much space they have next year) and the thought of adding 25-35 million a year to it would give him an aneurysm. Beane basically sounds like Ned Stark when he came to his first small council meeting and was like “HOW ARE WE IN THIS MUCH DEBT!? WE CAN’T AFFORD THIS TOURNAMENT?!.” I guess that made Doug Whaley Littlefinger or Terry Pegula into Robert Baratheon. Anyways..
I also think that he’d love to draft a QB because it is cheaper on the cap. If they draft someone like Carson Wentz and he’s as good out of the gate, the Bills wouldn’t have to worry about paying him Cousins money until 2022. If you look at the Panthers formula, they hated FA. They were all about the draft and signing their own guys, which is why I don’t really get Beane’s anger towards the cap. On the other side of the coin, if the Bills trade up into top 10, there’s a good chance they will lose picks and that means they won’t be able to fill those holes via the draft like they would if they just sign Cousins.
Now, if I were the GM, would I make a run at Cousins?
That’s for my GM column for another day.