There were multiple questions about Kirk Cousins, as there usually are, even though not a whole lot has changed with his situation. For some, that’s the hard part to fathom. So let’s get to it.
John Keim: OK, there are a few topics regarding Cousins so I’ll just go one by one.
Contract update: There really is none. During the scouting combine, word surfaced that the Washington Redskins had offered him $20 million per year; I’d been told it was for five years. I’ve also been told that the $20 million might not be 100 percent accurate so I’ll just use the word approximately. At the owners meetings, team president Bruce Allen told SI.com’s Albert Breer that it was a five-year extension on top of the 2017 franchise tag. That was the first I’d heard it was an extension and would not replace the tag money. But I also was told the guarantees were “low.” And I was told that there has been no new offer since before the combine (the sides did meet in Indianapolis).
Expectations for a deal (asked by @t_holston): Mine are rather low. Some people I know think it should be even lower. Maybe it changes, but that’s the feeling now. I know the Redskins say they’ll get a deal done, but I also think they’ve waited too long to make an offer that tempts Cousins. That said, they’ve still been willing to pay him $44 million over two years. It’s not as if he’s been done wrong financially thanks to the franchise tag. Still, at some point it won’t be about the money for him; if free, he can get a similar deal elsewhere.
He’s using his leverage; if he had taken some of the Redskins’ previous offers, he’d have left in some cases $20 million on the table. Last year, for example, they offered him $24 million in guarantees for the life of the deal. After playing on a second tag, he will have made $44 million guaranteed over two years. Basic math folks.
At this point, there’s more incentive for Cousins to wait and see how things play out in Washington — the direction of the franchise, how he meshes with coach Jay Gruden as a playcaller, etc. Cousins can become a free agent next offseason (unless the Redskins tag him for a third and final time).
That’s not to say the Redskins are incorrect in their appraisal of him, but if they truly do want a longterm deal then their approach needed to be different.
Draft option: It has to be under consideration because a team has to be realistic. If there’s little chance of signing Cousins longterm, they must prepare for his replacement. They could use Colt McCoy as a bridge quarterback to a younger passer. Would that be Nate Sudfeld? Scot McCloughan was high on his potential but not everyone shared the same vision of last year’s sixth-round pick. In other words, Sudfeld still has a lot to show that he could indeed be a future starter. I don’t know that they will target a quarterback in the first three rounds, but I do know McCloughan was studying a lot of quarterbacks.
Still more to prove (asked by @mikemasonmusic): Cousins has started 41 games so it’s not like he’s a newbie. But yes, he’s still evolving. So, yeah, he still has more to prove — can he lead a team deep into the playoffs, for example. He’s not a finished product. But enough time to get a good read? Of course. I could buy the needs-to-show more aspect last offseason after one season. But after two years you either think he’s still ascending or you don’t. You know what you have. Fans see players for a few hours a week; coaches see and study them for around 100 hours each week so they know what they have in a guy — on the field and behind the scenes.
Yeah, the talent around Cousins helped, but he also made it work and deserves credit. Look at the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan and what he did last year — when the talent improved. Early in his career he was surrounded by more talent and produced. But Ryan was rather pedestrian for several years before 2016, leading to stories last offseason wondering if the Falcons would even extend his contract.
In other words, talent helps any quarterback. There aren’t many like Tom Bradyor Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees walking around; they’re future Hall of Famers. I also think the Redskins have enough talent to make it work, thanks in part to Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed, and they have a good offensive mind in Gruden. If Cousins struggles, then it can’t just be blamed on a loss of talent because if you want $24 million per year, expectations should be high. But I can tell you even if Cousins struggles this year, it won’t change what certain coaches on the West Coast think he can do.