The Washington Redskins enter the 2016 offseason with yet another quarterback conundrum.
However, this year’s decision is far different from what we’ve seen the past three seasons. Instead of deciding on which quarterback will enter the season as the starter — the inconsistent superstar or fan-favorite underdog– they need to decide if they’ve found their quarterback of the future or if Kirk Cousins still has some proving to do.
In his fourth season with the Redskins, and first as the bonafide starter, Cousins threw for 4,166 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. To go along with a 101.6 passer rating, he put together a 69.7 completion percentage. Not to be overlooked, he ran for five touchdowns, as well.
The former Michigan State Spartan was clutch, too. He led three game-winning drives and orchestrated Washington’s season-turning 31-point comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Twice he received the NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award. Cousins sits atop the franchise’s leaderboards for single-season passing yards and is tied for second in passing touchdowns.
Without question, he is the Redskins’ quarterback come training camp. The question that remains, however, is under what contract?
According to Albert Breer of NFL Network, the Redskins don’t anticipate Cousins wearing a different uniform next season. If they are unable to come to a long-term agreement, then he’ll be franchise tagged, but that still puts the Redskins in the same position one year from now.
That’s assuming, however, that Cousins’ 2015 season wasn’t a fluke. It certainly caught the NFL by surprise, though, as the same quarterback that threw more touchdowns than interceptions (18 vs. 19) in his first three seasons suddenly became mentioned in the same breath as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
According to Joel Corry of CBS Sports, the NFL salary cap will sit at $153.4 million next season, and the franchise tag for a quarterback will fetch a hefty $19.7 million. That’s an awful lot to spend on a player if you’re still not convinced about where is ceiling sits and if this past season was legitimate.
As reported by Breer, though, Washington is ready to make a blockbuster deal to keep Cousins around for many years. There’s no question that he’s a leader on the field and in the locker room, and it’s been some time since the Redskins had a quarterback that didn’t divide the locker room and prove to be a detriment on the field. It’s clear to see why they view Cousins as their franchise quarterback.
Washington hasn’t had a true franchise quarterback since, well, since Daniel Snyder bought the team in the late 1990’s.
Cousins receiving a pay day this offseason is to be expected. And the nearly $20 million he’ll receive should he simply be franchise tagged is likely a starting point for a long-term deal. Washington has been desperate for a franchise quarterback and Cousins has shown as much promise as any previous signal caller, and he’s even got the results to back up his starting offer now.
In his corner is head coach Jay Gruden. The now third-year head coach clearly favors Cousins and didn’t publicly criticize him until halfway through the season. When asked about mistakes he would have usually pinned on Robert Griffin III, the quarterback-turned-head coach became a Cousins apologist.
Ultimately, the Redskins need to retain Cousins. A “blockbuster” deal, however, is risky, especially considering that the Redskins aren’t well off around the roster. The defensive secondary and linebacking corps saw plenty of injuries, and underperformed at times. The offensive line played well, but Cousins was sacked 26 times and the running game suffered all season long.
A blockbuster deal could tie Scot McCloughan’s hands when he’s looking to improve other parts of the roster. Even if the Redskins have the quarterback they want, the last thing they should allow is for their desire to keep him ruin the rest of the roster.
So perhaps maybe not a long-term deal, but Washington also shouldn’t place a franchise tag on him. Cousins should be given a chance to play without the pressure of an expiring contract. A two-to-three-year deal with a team option is the way to go. It will fetch around $20 million per year, but franchise quarterbacks are hard to come by and they finally have a promising option in-house.