With a number of NFL teams likely to be in the market for quarterbacks this offseason, the Redskins are expected to receive inquiries about the availability of second-year backup Kirk Cousins.
It remains to be seen what kind of value Cousins has, but it’s believed the Redskins could receive at least an early- to mid-round draft pick as compensation for the former Michigan State starter.
Based on Mike Shanahan’s stance on the quarterback in the past two weeks, it may be difficult for Cousins to drive up his value, however, because the coach doesn’t plan on making a change at that position.
When he came out of college in 2012, Cousins was projected by many analysts as a second- to third-round pick. But he wound up sliding to the fourth round, where Washington snatched him up. Shanahan said that his staff had given Cousins a first-round grade during their pre-draft evaluations, and they believed he was too talented a player to pass on despite the fact that they already had spent the second overall pick of the draft on Robert Griffin III.
Cousins last season appeared in three games, starting one of them, and completed 33 of 48 passes for 466 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. In his lone start (Week 15 at Cleveland), Cousins completed 26 of 37 passes for two touchdowns and an interception in a 38-21 victory. The week prior to that, with Griffin knocked out of the game with a knee injury, Cousins directed a game-tying scoring drive as he completed a touchdown pass and ran for a two-point conversion. Washington went on to win that game.
Making appearances in two preseason games this season, Cousins completed 8 of 10 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. He suffered a foot injury in the second outing, and that sidelined him for the remainder of the preseason. Cousins made a brief appearance against Denver in Week 8 of this season. He replaced a banged-up Griffin and completed 5 of 9 passes for 48 yards and two interceptions.
Despite an up-and-down season by Griffin, Shanahan hasn’t wavered in his commitment to his starter. He said last week that he never considered benching Griffin, even as he struggled mightily against the 49ers in what represented a must-win game that Washington wound up losing. Shanahan explained that he sees it as important for Griffin to work through the growing pains to enhance his development.
The Redskins are now mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, and Shanahan has maintained that he will continue to coach and make decisions as if his team still had postseason aspirations. He has said he will not begin playing younger players so he can evaluate them for next year. And along the same lines, he said that he doesn’t feel a need to play Cousins to showcase his skills to potential trade partners and better gauge his value.
“No, I get a good feel of value because I get to see people practice every day,” Shanahan said. “Now, if you’re talking about outside people evaluating, obviously they don’t know, but I do know.”
Shanahan concluded that the only way he envisions Cousins playing at some point during the final four games of the season is if Griffin were to get hurt, and because of that mind-set, he doesn’t wrestle with the decision of whether to continue Griffin’s development or give Cousins a chance to prove himself.
The coach does have a high confidence level in Cousins, however. “You don’t balance unless somebody gets hurt, somebody goes down,” Shanahan said. “When they do, you have to take advantage of your opportunity and that’s why when someone does go down, it’s always the next-man-up type mentality. That’s when you’ve got to take advantage of it. That’s when you’ve got to be so prepared. I think the hardest thing is for a second-year quarterback, or a second-team quarterback to prepare and be ready for every game like he’s a starter, because it takes a lot of hours, a lot of mental preparation and you don’t get a chance to get in. But when you do get in, you’ve got to take advantage of that opportunity. When Kirk does, or when he has like last year — if it was Cleveland or Baltimore — he took advantage of it and he proved to people that you can count on him.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
● The Redskins practice at 11:50 a.m. Wednesday. Mike Shanahan and Griffin are expected to speak with reporters after practice.
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