Kirk Cousins just gone done wrapping up one heck of a season as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Cousins failed to lead the ‘Skins to a first round playoff win over the visiting Green Bay Packers, but actually had very little to do with their ultimate demise. Instead, Cousins played rather well through the first three quarters, a stretch that saw the Redskins jump out to an 11-0 lead, as well as hold a narrow 18-17 lead in the third quarter.
Bad pass protection and a good effort from the Packers had Cousins and co. fizzle down the stretch, but he still put forth a decent effort and finished the year with a great stat line. Washington made the gutsy call to switch from former franchise passer Robert Griffin III in the preseason and though Kirk Cousins got off to a slow start, he wound up proving head coach Jay Gruden to be a bit of a genius.
Cousins is an ideal fit for Gruden’s offense, mirroring an equally averaged Andy Dalton and succeeding in a solid system. Cousins was even better than Dalton has been in Gruden’s offense for stretches in 2015, as he finished strong during a four-game winning streak that closed out the year with the Redskins going 9-7 and winning the NFC East.
There’s no denying that Washington’s division was trash and Cousins had a few missteps during his 2015 run, but very little can be said about him that was bad this year. That being said, it remains very possible that Cousins could head elsewhere, rather than set up shop in D.C. This writer believes he’s sticking around, as the Redskins have a pretty good system in place and tons of explosive talent all over the offense. Cousins would be silly to go to a new offense that wouldn’t offer any guarantees. However, he recently suggested he’d prefer to go somewhere where he “was wanted”. Given Washington owner Daniel Snyder’s meddling ways, it’s worth wondering if that comment is a shot to the top of the organization.
While Cousins is likely to stay in D.C., he’s scheduled to be a free agent and there are plenty of teams making big changes that could be willing to pay up for a guy that finally showed he was the best quarterback on the Redskins’ roster, all along. Let’s take a look at five teams that just might try to make a push for him in free agency this off-season:
The main issues with Cousins are not talent related. He’s a sound pocket passer who has flashed good accuracy and can hit the deep ball. He’s even showcased some solid athleticism. Consistency has been a big problem for him, however, especially in the accuracy department. Philly could be interested in a different option other than Sam Bradford, but there is a feeling around the league that there is the risk that Cousins is just another Nick Foles (one good year, then regress to the mean). I don’t see that being the case as Cousins has better tools than Foles ever did, but that doesn’t make him any less of a gamble, while the other problem is making sure whoever does bring him in doesn’t over pay for a guy who probably is never going to be a truly elite quarterback.
The Eagles can’t just ignore Cousins, though, as they’d be potentially passing on a very stable quarterback that could haunt them for years in the NFC East. Instead, they could steal a very solid pocket passer from a rival and fix their own issues under center at the same time. Philly doesn’t have as much talent as the Redskins do in the passing game, but they’re not far off. With Chip Kelly and a more traditional coach (and system) coming to town, a safe option like Cousins could make a lot of sense.
The Browns have yet to make their big move for a new head coach, but they’ve been loosely tied to Cousins in the past and it’s arguable that he could be the answer under center. They’re not quite as likely given that they do currently have two solid quarterbacks in Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel on the roster, as well as the #2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The new regime could be more interested in what seems to be a quality, established quarterback, however, rather than rolling the dice with Manziel, a new rookie quarterback or an aging journeyman like McCown. Cousins could eradicate all of the what ifs and help the Browns turn into a more stable organization. Then again, the Browns haven’t made smart decisions for a while now, so perhaps this move makes too much good sense for them to actually make it happen.
Houston might be my favorite destination for Cousins, as he’s actually a huge upgrade over the ineffective Brian Hoyer, who was completely blasted in the playoffs. The Texans have a very good defense and if Arian Foster can return to full strength they seem to have the goods on offense to form a pretty balanced team for another run next year. What they’re really missing is a steady quarterback that can make plays consistently all over the field. Hoyer showed flashes, but that’s all he’s ever done and Cousins is a younger option with more upside. If the Texans are serious about taking things to the next level, making a mild splash under center is something they need to do before 2016 rolls around. Cousins would be a nice middle ground move that could end up being the answer.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco is another team starting from scratch and that very well could mean unloading quarterback Colin Kaepernick. They have Blaine Gabbert signed cheaply for another year (plus he wasn’t half bad as the starter), but if they want an ever better option that they want to shoot for the playoffs with, Cousins could enter the discussion. They could dump Kap and keep Gabbert as a quality backup they know they can trust if needed. Cousins, meanwhile, would give them a more traditional drop-back passer that can maximize their offense. Surrounding Cousins with some solid weapons would be step number two, but upgrading the most important position on the field is something they seriously need to consider first.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams boast a borderline elite defense and have a stud running back in Todd Gurley. Their issues? A shaky offensive line and zero reliability at quarterback. They’ve floundered with an injury-prone Sam Bradford, a trade bust in Nick Foles and a litany of erratic backups. They need to finally address the position to the point where it’s not their biggest weakness and even is a point of strength. I doubt they’re really making that happen in the draft and they definitely do not have the answer currently on their roster. That means a trade or a free agency dive is in order. I wouldn’t rule out a trade for a Manziel, Kaepernick or RG3, but signing the more stable Cousins would probably be the better move of those four possibilities.
Again, I don’t think Cousins is going anywhere. I do think ownership needs to back him a little more firmly, and cutting Robert Griffin III will go a long way in proving that. Not over-paying Cousins could be key for the Redskins, but unless they want to regress even further, they would be wise to keep continuity in an offense that was actually pretty prolific at times with Cousins at the helm. With more experience in Gruden’s system, it’s very possible Cousins gets even better in 2016. That being said, if the Redskins publicly embarrass him with negotiations or other moves, Cousins is likely headed to one of the aforementioned teams.