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Recent QB deals shows difficulty in gauging Kirk Cousins' value

The difficult part when it comes to Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins’ pending free agency is finding a solid comparison to his situation. Most quarterbacks who have signed big deals recently had more than one season as the full-time starter to prove their value – it’s certainly why some will have reservations about handing him a huge contract. In 30 games (25 starts), Cousins has thrown 47 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.

But Cousins also is coming free at a time when the salary cap is expected to be between $150 million and $155 million – with another increase next season. Not to mention a season in which he threw 29 touchdowns and 11 picks. It all plays into the equation.

Here’s a look at seven quarterbacks who received new contracts in the last two years:

Cam Newton (2015)

Length of contract: Five years

Signing bonus: $22.5 million

Guaranteed money: $60 million

Average per year: $20.76 million

Salary cap when signed: $143.28 million

Career stats before contract: In 62 starts (and games), Newton threw for 82 touchdowns to 54 interceptions and rushed for 2,571 yards and 33 scores.

Note: Newton won the MVP and elevated an offense without a whole lot of talent at wide receiver. Newton was throwing to receivers who would be, at best, a third option for many teams.

Ryan Tannehill (2015)

Length of contract: Four years

Signing bonus: $11.5 million

Guaranteed money: $45 million

Average per year: $19.25 million

Salary cap when signed: $143.28 million

Career stats before signing: In 48 starts (and games), he threw for 63 touchdowns and 42 interceptions and rushed for 760 yards and four scores. He threw for 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2014 and 24 and 12 this past season.

Note: He hasn’t done a whole lot to get excited about, though he has shown glimpses of being fine. Tannehill’s cap hit increases to $20.3 million in 2017, but the Dolphins can potentially get $18 million in savings if they release him next offseason.

Nick Foles (2015)

Length of contract: Two years

Signing bonus: $3 million

Guaranteed money: $13,792 million

Average per year: $12.25 million

Salary cap when signed: $143.28 million

Career stats before signing: In 24 starts (and 26 games), Foles threw a combined 46 touchdowns and 17 interceptions – 27 of those scores and only two of those picks occurred in 2013. Last year, Foles threw seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions and was benched.

Note: Foles signed his extension after the Eagles traded him to St. Louis. He failed to hold on to the starting job, but if cut this offseason the Rams would receive no savings from his $8.75 million cap hit.

Colin Kaepernick (2014)

Length of contract: Six years

Signing bonus: $12,328,766

Guaranteed money: $61 million

Average per year: $19 million

Salary cap when signed: $133 million

Career stats before contract: In 23 starts and 31 games overall, Kaepernick threw for a combined 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also rushed for 937 yards and nine touchdowns. Since his contract, Kaepernick has thrown 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Note: Kaepernick was once viewed as the next best thing among quarterbacks and he at least led his team to the Super Bowl and two NFC championship games. He was viewed as a player on the rise. His cap number is $16.8 million this season; the Niners can recover $14.3 million if they cut him.

Alex Smith (2014)

Length of contract: Four years

Signing bonus: $18 million

Guaranteed money: $45 million

Average per year: $17 million

Salary cap when signed: $133 million

Career stats before contract: In 80 starts and 95 games overall, Smith threw for 104 touchdowns and 70 interceptions and rushed for 752 yards. His passer rating to that point was 81.0; it’s 94.4 since his deal.

Note: The Redskins would be happy if Cousins were like Smith, though the truth is that Smith is bigger and more athletic. But the point is that the Redskins would like to operate games the way Smith does. Yes, a game manager (something every quarterback really should be) who must be surrounded by a certain level of talent in order to succeed.

Carson Palmer (2014)

Length of contract: Three years

Signing bonus: $6.5 million

Guaranteed money: $24,735,294

Average per year: $16.5 million

Salary cap when signed: $133 million

Career stats before signing: In 137 starts (and 138 games), Palmer threw for 213 touchdown passes and 152 interceptions. Since the signing, Palmer has thrown 46 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.

Note: Palmer was 34 years old when this contract was signed and also had two ACL injuries. So it’s not a direct comparison at all to Cousins. His cap hit goes from $7.375 million this past season to $17.075 million this year.

Andy Dalton (2014)

Length of contract: Six years

Signing bonus: $12 million

Guaranteed money: $17 million

Average per year: $16 million

Salary cap when signed: $133 million

Career stats before signing: In 48 starts (and games), Dalton threw for 80 touchdowns and 49 interceptions while helping the Bengals post a 30-18 record in that stretch. He has thrown 44 touchdowns and 24 interceptions since the deal (and has a 20-8 record as the starter).

Note: He’s the one Cousins is compared to most often as Dalton’s ability seemed to be debated on a game-by-game basis. But he’s led the Bengals to the playoffs in a much tougher division. The highest Dalton’s cap hit gets is $17.7 million in the final year of his deal.