A lot of variables are in play in these questions, and the answers will likely depend in large part on whether the Redskins succeed in striking a long-term contract with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.
But let’s start with Colt McCoy, who has shown in his two seasons in Washington that he’s conversant with and comfortable in Coach Jay Gruden’s offense and proven himself a ready, capable backup when called upon.
For those reasons alone — along with his team-first attitude — McCoy ought to get strong consideration for a third one-year deal with the Redskins. In a market that’s thin on proven backups, McCoy can expect to draw interest elsewhere (possibly Dallas) if he hits the free-agent market.
And the Redskins would likely end up paying more for a backup they thought might be better than McCoy. But in doing so, they’d lose a quarterback with two years’ experience in Gruden’s offense for one with none.
McCoy will be 29 when the 2016 season opens but doesn’t have tremendous wear and tear. He may lack dazzling arm strength, but he has moxie and a toughness that builds confidence in teammates. He’s also smart with the football and doesn’t lose games playing over his head.
In 2014, he orchestrated the Redskins’ only victory of consequence in a forgettable 4-12 season, leading the team to an upset at Dallas on Monday Night Football. He would have ended the season as the starting quarterback, in all likelihood, had he not injured his neck with two games remaining.
Though disappointed to be shuffled back on the depth chart for 2015, McCoy didn’t vent publicly or cause a distraction. Instead, he set about helping Cousins prepare for game day and polishing his own skills under quarterbacks Coach Matt Cavanaugh, who deserves credit for keeping the trio of quarterbacks together so offensive coordinator Sean McVay could focus on game-planning.
With Cousins starting all 16 regular-season games in 2015, McCoy played sparingly, mopping up the Week 10 rout of New Orleans and taking over for Cousins in the second quarter of the season finale at Dallas, the lead well in hand, and connectingwith Rashad Ross for a 71-yard touchdown.
The Redskins are expected to release Robert Griffin III before the new league year begins on March 9, rather than pay him the $16.155 million due on his fifth-year option in 2016.
Given the needs elsewhere on the roster —particularly on defense, where every position could use upgrading — the Redskins could consider keeping just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. If they can extend Cousins and re-sign McCoy, that decision would be easier to make.
Keeping two quarterbacks rather than three is a trend that’s appears to be growing. At the moment, with offseason rosters in flux, nine of 32 NFL teams have just two quarterbacks on their roster: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, the New York Giants andSeattle in the NFC; in the AFC, Jacksonville, New England, Oakland and San Diego. That number was higher during the regular season.
That represents a break from convention, which holds that NFL teams need three quarterbacks on the roster. But under certain scenarios, cutting back to two isn’t the risk it might seem, notes former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, now an NFL Network analyst.
“The theory is you carry two and get an extra player who can help on Sunday,” Casserly notes. “Ideally you’d like to have a [third] guy on the practice squad so you have a third arm during practice. Plus, you have another guy who knows your system you can at least activate if you have to.
“The reason you go with three is you have three guys you like, and if you put the third guy on waivers, he’ll get claimed.”
The Redskins could consider keeping just two quarterbacks on the roster under certain scenarios. Namely, sign Cousins to a multi-year contract this offseason, rather than resort to the one-year franchise tag; bring back McCoy; and find a serviceable third quarterback or young prospect to develop on the practice squad. That would give General Manager Scot McCloughan another roster spot to work with in bolstering the defensive line, the pass rush, secondary or special teams.
But if the Redskins end up using the franchise tag to lock up Cousins on a one-year deal, they would likely put a greater priority on finding a young quarterback in April’s NFL draft to start grooming as a potential successor.
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