Offseason questions: Should the Redskins trade Kirk Cousins, or hold onto him?


Kirk Cousins threw four touchdowns and seven interceptions as a starter in 2013. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Everybody and his brother, sister and cousin knows that Kirk Cousins would like a chance to start at quarterback for an NFL team. All of those people also know that barring injury, he will not have that chance with the Washington Redskins because of their investment in Robert Griffin III, who also is more talented and more athletic.

So, to achieve that goal, Cousins would have to go elsewhere via trade if it’s this offseason or the next, or wait until 2016, when he’s a free agent.

Today’s offseason question centers around whether the Redskins should trade Cousins.

A lot of that has to do with what they could get for him.

The Redskins used a fourth-round pick to select Cousins in the 2012 NFL draft after they, and 31 other teams passed on him in the first three rounds partly because of concerns about consistency, accuracy and arm strength.

Mike Shanahan said at the time Washington selected Cousins despite selling the farm for Griffin because they had him rated higher than a fourth-round pick, and that the team needed to improve the overall depth of the quarterback position. He wouldn’t say then what grade his staff had given Cousins at the time, but then last season, Shanahan declared that it was a first-round grade. Whether or not that assessment was true, we’ll never know. But Shanahan said late in the season that he believed Cousins was worth a first- or second-round pick.

Do other NFL teams agree?

The Redskins don’t have a first-round pick (this year’s pick — No. 2 overall — goes to the St. Louis Rams as the final installment of their payment for Griffin). If they can get a first-round pick for Cousins, then they certainly should.

A number of teams find themselves in the market for a quarterback. Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota and Tennessee comprise that list. But some of those teams are in position to use their high draft picks to select potentially elite quarterbacks.

Other teams will have to ask themselves if those not-quite-elite talents are better options — and have higher ceilings — than Cousins, or some other quarterbacks available in free agency. Or, if they can’t get a quarterback in the draft or free agency, they must ask themselves if Cousins — even if not worth a first-round pick in their minds — is better than the current quarterbacks on their roster, like Brian Hoyer (Cleveland), Jake Locker (Tennessee), Terrelle Pryor (Oakland), Christian Ponder (Minnesota) or Chad Henne (Jacksonville).

If the answer is yes, would they give up a second-round pick for him? A third?

It all boils down to whether or not teams believe that Cousins is better now than he was when he came out of college and they didn’t see him as a first-, second-, third- or fourth-round pick.

Cousins has a limited body of work, but in that sampling, he has shown both flashes of promise, and reasons for concern. In his young career, he has completed 56.2 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions while losing two fumbles.

In his start against Atlanta, Cousins impressed, completing 64 percent of his passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns. He also had two interceptions, but fell just shy of commanding a game-winning drive when an incomplete pass killed a chance at the winning two-point conversion. (Part of that blame has to go to Josh Morgan, however, who on that play ran the wrong way.)

At his best, Cousins is a quarterback who studies hard and prepares well, makes quick decisions, gets the ball out of his hands quickly and moves his offense.

But, the next two games saw Cousins struggle a good deal, and his three-game audition as a starting quarterback concluded with him having thrown four touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

Cousins believes that he has the potential to blossom into an effective NFL quarterback. He said at the end of the season, “I think there’s more there. It obviously would help if I was with a team for a long time and have a chance to really build up a team as their leader, as their quarterback. But we’ll see.”

If the Redskins get an offer for even a second-round pick, they should pull the trigger. Then, you have two second-round picks and that leads to a number of scenarios. But what if they don’t? Say the offer is for a third, or a fourth. Then, they must ask if it’s worth it. They need a quality backup, remember.

They would be parting with a guy who serves as a good insurance policy for Griffin, and who also has familiarity with the new offensive coordinator, Sean McVay, and the personnel already in place on the roster. Who could they get to back Griffin up? Bring Rex Grossman back? Go after a veteran free agent? Chicago’s Josh McCown, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick, Minnesota’s Josh Freeman, Detroit’s Shaun Hill, Henne, Seattle’s Tavaris Jackson, New Orleans’s Luke McCown and Green Bay’s Matt Flynn rank among the players expected to be on the market.

If a mid-round pick is all the Redskins can get for Cousins, it might be wise to hold onto him for another year. Because of the character guy that Cousins is, they don’t have to worry about him becoming disgruntled and causing strife within the organization. Cousins isn’t so desperate that he would want to cause problems and make a bad name for himself. Along the same lines, he also wouldn’t want to be traded to a disastrous situation just so he can get out. He has his eye on long-term success, not just a quick exit, which could lead to him failing at a bad destination and then being out of the league. If the Redskins do hold onto Cousins, he will continue to work hard prepare as if he is the starter so he can capitalize on whatever opportunity arises.

Unless the price is right, it might be wise to not make a move.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

Blog posts from The Post:

Opening Kick: It’s been 22 years since a D.C. parade | Poll: How old were you?

D.C. Sports Bog: Moss says K. Shanahan a great young coach More Bog

Doug Williams talks productive, but no deal finalized yet

Mailbag: Roster needs and draft prospects | Gruden finalizes coaching staff

Offseason questions: What’s Riley worth? | Should Orakpo be re-signed?

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Post Sports Live, Should Kirk Cousins follow Kyle Shanahan to Cleveland?

The Cleveland Browns hired former Redskins coach Kyle Shanahan to be the team's offensive coordinator. The Post Sports Live crew discusses whether he will try and trade for Redskins back-up quarterback Kirk Cousins. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.

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Keith McMillan · February 5, 2014

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