Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden heard the name “Josh Rosen” and stuttered, then laughed. During a media session at the NFL’s annual league meetings two weeks ago, Gruden had been asked whether the team had scouted the Arizona Cardinals quarterback when Rosen was leaving UCLA last spring. Gruden started to answer in the affirmative but stopped.
“Josh is a good football player, but he’s not on our team,” Gruden said. “So no reason to talk about him, is there?”
Then he smiled again, for there is plenty of reason for the Redskins to talk about Rosen. In a rare set of circumstances in the NFL, the 10th pick in last year’s draft — the Cardinals’ presumed future franchise quarterback — might be available via trade. And the dots continue to get connected between Rosen and the Redskins, who need to find their own quarterback of the future.
In the past week alone, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Todd McShay and NBC’s Peter King have suggested that Washington is the favorite to land Rosen in a pre-draft trade, and multiple people with knowledge of the Redskins’ thinking confirmed the team is interested in acquiring the second-year passer.
NFL coaches, scouts and executives are notoriously dishonest around draft time, in hopes of disguising their true intentions. So there is no way to know whether Arizona plans to draft Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray with the first pick and trade away Rosen, just as there is no way to know whether or how badly the Redskins want to trade for Rosen, who had an uneven rookie year — including throwing 11 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions — for a poor Cardinals team. For his part, Rosen reported Monday for Arizona’s offseason workouts after removing several Cardinals-related posts from his Instagram account earlier this offseason amid a flurry of Murray rumors.
On the same day Gruden declined to talk about Rosen, team president Bruce Allen said there had been several discussions at the meetings between teams lining up possible draft-day trades, should a particularly coveted player rise or fall. He said the Redskins “would do more research on those types of players” but did not mention Rosen specifically. Allen also insisted that Washington didn’t have to come out of the first round with a quarterback, saying he didn’t “want to force something.”
Still, a Rosen trade would make sense for the Redskins for two reasons. For starters, there is a lack of consensus on this year’s quarterback prospects among draft analysts and talent evaluators. With Rosen, Washington could get a quarterback who was widely considered one of the top options in last year’s star-studded quarterback class, just one season into his rookie contract. Even though his first-year performance was subpar, one could argue he presents less risk than some of this year’s top prospects, and a team that acquires him could do so without having to endure the growing pains most rookies experience.
There is also the matter of compensation; Rosen could be acquired for a second- or third-round draft pick. For a Washington roster with needs at several key positions, that could be a more desirable option than investing a first-round pick in a rookie quarterback.
Former Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints general manager Randy Mueller, who runs a football consulting firm, said Rosen would be an “awesome” fit for Gruden’s short-passing, ball-control offense, and he argued that Rosen’s rookie-year failures were more a product of the Cardinals’ dysfunction and “very little of [Rosen’s] doing.”
“His accuracy and ability to get the ball out of his hand are rare,” Mueller said.
It’s not as if the Redskins have to trade for Rosen or take a quarterback early in the draft. They have veterans Colt McCoy and Case Keenum, who will compete for the starting job. But both are under contract for only one year, and with the team uncertain whether Alex Smith will ever return from last season’s devastating leg injury, team officials have privately told people around the NFL that they must find a long-term answer at quarterback.
But at what cost? There are many rumors flying about Rosen these days, with multiple reports indicating teams have already made offers for a player the Cardinals have said they might not even deal. The general feeling is that Arizona would want at least a second-round draft pick in return. The Redskins own the 46th pick, which they might be willing to part with, given that they have two third-round picks in addition to the 15th choice.
“There’s no way [the Redskins] are going to give up a first-round pick for Rosen,” said former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly, an analyst for the NFL Network.
Mueller, for his part, said he thinks Rosen is worth a first-round pick and wonders whether the New England Patriots would want to trade the final pick in the first round to groom him as Tom Brady’s successor. Other rumors have connected Rosen to the New York Giants, who need a quarterback to develop behind Eli Manning and possess the sixth, 17th and 37th picks in the draft — but they might not be willing to part with any of them for Rosen.
The Redskins have similar motivation not to overpay for Rosen in terms of draft pick compensation, because they need an impact edge rusher on defense and a pass-catcher on offense, among other areas. They might balk at giving away too much for a quarterback who wouldn’t be a lock to win a three-way competition against McCoy and Keenum this offseason.
Still, Rosen’s potential is intoxicating.
“Rosen is ahead [of this year’s class] because he played in a pro system [last season],” Casserly said, adding that the concerns attached to Rosen are his work habits and ability to follow the game plan. “A guy can blossom and be good; there’s no doubt about that. That’s why you [should be willing to offer a second-round pick], and you might hit a home run with it.”
Kareem Copeland contributed to this report.
More Redskins coverage: