The Washington Redskins could choose to retain quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason. Or they might opt to let their full-time starter of the past two seasons walk during free agency, if a long-term deal cannot be reached. They also could reuse the franchise tag, now valued at $23.94 million, and then trade Cousins to receive some sort of compensation.
In short, the franchise has a difficult decision on its hands.
The logic behind trading Cousins would be that if Washington can’t sign a long-term deal with Cousins now, it would make sense to get some value for him while it is still possible. Without a long-term deal in place this offseason, the Redskins run the risk of losing Cousins in free agency next year if he plays on the franchise tag. Using the franchise tag for a third straight year is highly unlikely, after all, given that Cousins would receive $34.5 million in 2018.
But if Washington opts to move on, what, exactly, would it do at quarterback? Here are three options. One of them is logical, the other is a reach and the last one is very unlikely — but worth noting in the event that the Redskins think it’s 2010 all over again.
1. Start Colt McCoy. This is a no-brainer, even though he has thrown just 11 regular season passes over the past two seasons. McCoy is arguably the best backup quarterback in the NFL, and he could be a starter on a few teams. The 30-year-old is familiar with the offense and has experience, with 25 career starts.
McCoy doesn’t have the quick release or arm strength that Cousins does, but he makes up for it in part with his anticipation and timing — particularly on intermediate routes. McCoy had a strong training camp last year, and he is more than capable of stepping in as the full-time starter if the opportunity presents itself.
There are concerns about McCoy’s durability, along with the talent he would have around him. Cousins benefited from an outstanding supporting cast, although Washington struggled in the red zone nonetheless. McCoy would still have a good offensive line and talented weapons such as Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder, as well as unproven receiver Josh Doctson. With Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson slated to hit the open market next month, Washington’s QB could be without one or both of the team’s veteran wide receivers from 2016.
2. The Redskins could start Nate Sudfeld or a rookie quarterback who makes a favorable impression during training camp. Sudfeld, a sixth-round pick out of Indiana last year, served as the team’s third-string quarterback in a season of growth. He displayed some promise in his first preseason game, but his next outing, against the New York Jets, showed that Sudfeld still has a long way to go before he is capable of even being considered for a job as a starting NFL quarterback. The 23-year-old still has plenty of time to improve, but he would have to make a significant leap this offseason for a prominent role in 2017.
There’s always a chance that the Redskins draft a rookie quarterback who emerges in camp, as Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott did in their rookie seasons. It isn’t considered a deep quarterback class, but the Redskins could take Deshaun Watson in the first round or Davis Webb on Day 3 and decide their rookie should start in Week 1. It wouldn’t be the first time.
3. Go get Tony Romo. Yes, the soon-to-be former Dallas Cowboys quarterback. With Prescott in the picture, Romo’s services are no longer needed after 14 seasons with the franchise. He needs a new home, and the Redskins may need a new quarterback.
They acquired a former NFC East quarterback in the past, trading for Donovan McNabb, which turned out to be a disaster. This one could be, too. Romo, 36, is probably still a solid quarterback, but he can’t stay healthy: In the past two seasons, he’s played just five games.
And if Romo can’t stay healthy behind the Cowboys’ offensive line, considered the best in the league, then he’s likely too fragile to rely on for any other team.