What could the Washington Redskins receive if they trade quarterback Kirk Cousins?

December 26, 2013

The offseason arrives next week for the Washington Redskins with plenty of issues to be resolved. One is the team’s quarterback situation and what becomes of Kirk Cousins, the second-year backup who took over as the starter for the final three games of the season when Coach Mike Shanahan shut down Robert Griffin III.

If Cousins is to be traded, what can the Redskins expect to receive for him? Shanahan has suggested it is possible the Redskins could hope to get a first-round draft pick in return. But Cousins was a fourth-round choice in 2012 who is scheduled to make only his fourth NFL start when the Redskins close their season Sunday against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands.

Some observers say that while Cousins has shown some promise as a potential NFL starter, they believe a second-round selection is a more realistic target for the Redskins in a prospective trade. They regard a deal for a first-round pick as unlikely.

“I don’t see that happening,” said Louis Riddick, a former NFL scout and front office executive for the Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. “It’s not because he’s not a great kid. I’m not saying it can’t happen. The quarterback market is often irrational. People often climb all over themselves if they see the guy they want. But to me, the high end would be a two.”

Vinny Cerrato, the former Redskins executive who now hosts a radio show in Baltimore, said it will take some time for the quarterback market to develop in the offseason and for Cousins’s prospective trade value to be determined.

“Teams are going to want to evaluate all the quarterbacks in the draft,” Cerrato said by telephone this week. “They don’t know who’s coming out in the draft, who’s not coming out in the draft. They’ll see the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. They’ll grade the free agents. And then you’ll know what you can get for someone. I don’t think anyone can honestly say at this point. You have to look at the supply and demand.”

The Redskins’ best option, according to Cerrato, could end up being retaining Cousins given that Griffin has not started all 16 games in either of his NFL seasons.

“It might be better for them to keep Cousins for another year,” Cerrato said. “Keeping Cousins there might help them more than getting a late two, something like that. I don’t know that trading him is the best thing. You have a guy that hasn’t played 16 games yet.”

Cousins made one start for Griffin when both were rookies, winning a game in Cleveland down the stretch last season when Griffin was hurt. He has made two starts since Shanahan’s much-debated decision this month to end Griffin’s season early.

Cousins has had mixed success. He threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns in a Dec. 15 game at Atlanta. But he also had three turnovers in that game, losing a fumble and throwing two interceptions. He threw for 197 yards, with a touchdown pass and an interception, on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins lost both games, each by one point.

I feel like I’ve improved,” Cousins said this week. “I’ve done some good things. I feel like there’s a lot I can take from it and be encouraged about going into the offseason. Obviously I want to still finish strong and show even more this week. But I think there’s a lot to be feeling positive about and there are other things to be hard on yourself and go back and learn from. I think I’m in a good spot right now. Obviously we would have liked those to be wins. But we’re two points away from being 2-0 in this three-game stretch, and hopefully we can get a win this week.”

Shanahan said earlier in the week: “I think any time a person plays in a game, every general manager, every decision-maker gets to see him against starters and playing against people that they have a lot of respect for. And they can evaluate his performance against the players in the National Football League. I think that not only helps us as an organization to see how Kirk plays, but as people evaluate Kirk, it gives them a more honest opinion of what he can do in some tough situations.”

Cerrato said he believes teams have become wary of quarterbacks who build value based on a limited amount of playing time.

The Arizona Cardinals traded a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 for quarterback Kevin Kolb, who had made seven NFL starts. The Seattle Seahawks signed quarterback Matt Flynn, who had made two starts for the Green Bay Packers, to a three-year, $26 million contract in 2012 in free agency. Neither quarterback has remained a regular NFL starter.

“I think they’ll be scared to death,” Cerrato said. “Flynn? Kolb? Who’s had success? And this last game didn’t help Cousins.”

Said Riddick: “There will be a lot of factors. It will be driven by what his demand is and how desperate teams are. His play in this last week of the regular season will be a factor. But to say you can get a one — that’s wishful thinking to me.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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