Kirk Cousins's play could give Redskins offseason options

The Post Sports Live crew discusses the market value of rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins following his breakout performance at Cleveland and debates whether or not the Redskins should seriously consider trade offers from other teams. (The Washington Post)
December 18, 2012

The Washington Redskins don’t have a quarterback controversy. But they could have a Cousins conundrum during the offseason.

Rookie Kirk Cousins didn’t unseat Robert Griffin III as the team’s starter with his strong performance Sunday in the Redskins 38-21 victory over the Cleveland Browns. But he did enhance his own trade value, should the Redskins choose to part ways with him and add a draft pick or two in a bid to improve the team they put around Griffin in the future.

According to one NFL head coach, the Redskins probably could get a quarterback-needy team to surrender a second- or third-round draft choice for Cousins if they decide to trade him after the season.

“I would imagine he would have value . . . It would be based on the [strength of the] quarterback class” in next year’s draft, said the coach, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on the potential trade value of another team’s player.

Cousins would be more attractive because the fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State has three seasons remaining on his original four-year rookie contract at an affordable salary, the coach said. “That’s a plus,” he said.

Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Redskins and Houston Texans, said he thinks the Redskins could get a second-round pick for Cousins, if not more.

“He’s worth at least a two,” Casserly said in a telephone interview Tuesday, echoing comments he made after Sunday’s game. “And if you can get a little competition going, depending on how people evaluate the [draft-eligible] quarterbacks—and I don’t think anyone is evaluating them all that highly in terms of the upper half of the first round—you can maybe get two twos, like a [Matt] Schaub or a [Kevin] Kolb.”

The Texans sent a pair of second-round draft choices to the Atlanta Falcons for quarterback Matt Schaub in 2007; the two teams also switched first-round draft spots. Schaub, at that point, was a three-year veteran who’d made two starts for the Falcons.

The Arizona Cardinals traded a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a cornerback, to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 for Kolb, who had four NFL seasons and seven starts on his pro resume.

A former NFL personnel executive said he believes the Redskins “probably could get a second-round” pick for Cousins because it is a relatively weak draft for quarterbacks.

He said keeping Cousins would be “a no-brainer” if the Redskins had all their draft selections, because of Griffin’s injury risk. But the team might have to at least consider trading Cousins to recoup a pick under current circumstances, said the former executive, who spoke on the condition that he not be named.

The Redskins have given no indication that they would be willing to trade Cousins, making all such talk speculative. But Washington’s offseason strategy will be complicated by a couple of factors.

They have no first-round choice in the next two drafts because of the trade with the St. Louis Rams that enabled them to move up and select Griffin. And they must absorb the second half of a $36 million salary cap reduction ordered by the NFL as a penalty for loading player salaries into the 2010 season, when there was no salary cap.

Casserly said that keeping Cousins as a backup to Griffin could be a sensible option.

“From the Redskins’ standpoint, I think the thing you have to write on the board first is our backup quarterback is going to determine whether we go to the playoffs,” Casserly said. “We’ve seen we can win with Cousins. Can we win with Rex Grossman?”

Who backs up Griffin is important, Casserly said, because of the ever-present potential for injury to Griffin. Griffin missed Sunday’s game because of a sprained right knee suffered on a hit at the end of a scramble, and left a game in October with a concussion.

“He’s a terrific player already,” Casserly said of Griffin, the league’s second-rated passer behind Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. “He’s only going to improve. He’s going to get even better as a pocket passer. But I think the style of play will expose him to injuries. The body build will expose him to injuries. You have to accept the fact that you have to go into the season believing that he probably won’t play all 16 games.”

In the final analysis, Casserly said he would be reluctant to trade Cousins.

“I’d be very wary of it,” Casserly said. “My number one thing is: Who replaces him? I wouldn’t do it on a blind shot. But I know it’s very tempting because with their salary cap issues, draft picks are very valuable.”

For now, the Redskins needn’t worry about such matters. They play Sunday at Philadelphia with a chance to clinch an NFC playoff berth if they win and the New York Giants, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings lose. The Redskins are tied with the Giants and Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East with 8-6 records.

Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday that Griffin will start against the Eagles if doctors declare his knee has healed well enough. If not, Cousins would start again. He threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns in the triumph over the Browns.

“I thought he really stepped up and played extremely well with a lot of poise during the game,” Shanahan said Monday.

Cousins continued to acknowledge Sunday that Griffin is the team’s unquestioned starter when healthy. But he also said he took a step toward proving he could start in the NFL.

“Time will tell and I’ll have other opportunities to prove myself,” he said Sunday. “I’m staying patient.. . . I’ll make the most of the opportunities I get. I’ve tried to do that through the preseason and through my opportunities during the regular season. We’ll see what happens.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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