Kirk Cousins

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Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan gives Kirk Cousins a tepid endorsement

Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan gives Kirk Cousins a tepid endorsement

Former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was on a Denver radio station recently.

In case you haven’t heard, many Broncos fans are very anxious for their team to bring in Kirk Cousins to be their quarterback. They likely were looking for McCloughan, who was the GM in Washington for the first two years that Cousins was the starter, to give the QB a ringing endorsement.

They didn’t get one.

“He’s a good player,” McCloughan said on 104.3 The Fan (via Mile High Huddle). “Is he special? I don’t see special.”

For the Broncos, “good” would be an improvement. They got starts from Trevor Simeon, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch last year. All three of them had passer ratings in the low 70’s and as a group, they threw more interceptions than touchdowns.

But the issue is that Cousins is likely to command a contract that is more in the range of “special” quarterbacks. He may not get the $30 million per year free agent deal that is being talked about, but his next deal won’t be too far south of it.

McCloughan said that they were trying to help Cousins succeed.

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“We were still building a roster around him to make him special,” he said.

He said that Cousins is talented, and he works hard but he needs more to make a team successful.

“You just need to have some talent around him because you don’t want him to be throwing the ball 35-40 times to win the game,” McCloughan said.

“You want to have a running game and have a good defense, good teams. And then let him do what he does.”

REALTED: REALISTIC QB DRAFT OPTIONS FOR THE REDSKINS

But the question is, can you pay Cousins, say, $27 million per year, a salary that would be about 15 percent of this year’s salary cap, and still be able to afford to build that running game and defense? Will the team signing him be able to bring in free agents to bolster weak areas and re-sign its home-grown talent?

That is what John Elway, who calls the shots in Denver, will have to figure out. Cousins is not the only possible solution to the Broncos’ QB problem.

They have the No. 5 pick in the draft and a prime quarterback prospect is likely to be available. That would be a lower-cost option, but even highly-drafted quarterbacks don’t always work out. Elway might prefer the relative certainty of going with a more proven commodity like Cousins.

Of course, the Redskins face the same dilemma. Their attempts to lock up Cousins really haven’t gone anywhere in part because they seem to be reluctant to pay elite quarterback money to a player who is, according to the man who lobbied for Cousins to get the starting job, good but not special.

The chances are that when free agency starts up in mid-March some team will give him the big deal (assuming the Redskins don’t hit him with the $35 million franchise tag) and gamble that they can make the rest of it work. We will see if it’s the Broncos, Redskins or another team.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

 

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While clock ticks with Kirk Cousins, multiple mock drafts connect Redskins with Baker Mayfield

While clock ticks with Kirk Cousins, multiple mock drafts connect Redskins with Baker Mayfield

NFL mock drafts are wildly unreliable, and of the good ones, the full picture doesn't start to become clear until much closer to draft night. 

Think about it: The NFL playoffs aren't even over yet. Most teams are in self-evaluation mode, readying decisions for free agency. Once NFL teams get to the NFL Combine in late February, that's when draft boards start to come to shape. And those draft boards aren't finalized for at least another month after a slew of college pro days. 

Still, mock drafts are fun to look at and discuss, and draft experts like ESPN's Mel Kiper and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller are well plugged in.

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So when both of them have the Redskins drafting Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield with the 13th overall pick, the interest level spikes. 

From Miller

Washington would be a great fit for Mayfield. He doesn't go to a city with an intense media market (New York) or a city with a long history of losing and a ton of pressure on a rookie quarterback (Cleveland). And with Jay Gruden as the head coach, Mayfield lands in a place where he'll be coached up and a scheme can be built around him.​

While the Redskins still have about two months to try and work out a long-term deal with current quarterback Kirk Cousins, few people around the situation feel a lot of optimism. Cousins gave a lukewarm answer about wanting to stay in Washington, and for years he has talked about wanting to see his true value on the open market. 

Washington head coach Jay Gruden discussed his frustration with keeping Cousins on a one-year deal, as the Redskins have done the past two seasons. The coach wants his QB to be with the team for the long-term, and that could become clear by the NFL Draft in late April. 

If Cousins and the Redskins have not signed a long-term deal by the draft, and it seems unlikely, Washington should absolutely consider a QB with their first round pick.

What passer to take is a different argument, and that will be up to Bruce Allen, Doug Williams, Gruden and a collection of the Redskins highest scouts. There are also a number of QB-needy teams drafting ahead of Washington. 

As for Mayfield, he was certainly a star in college. As a senior he won the 2017 Heisman Trophy, throwing for more than 4,600 yards with 43 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He completed an absurd 70 percent of his passes, extremely high accuracy for a college passer. He also ran for another 300 yards and five more scores. 

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There are questions about Mayfield. He might lack the height of traditional NFL quarterbacks, and he might lack the game of a traditional NFL pocket passer. Plus, he showed immaturity in on-field celebrations multiple times in 2017 and had an offseason arrest that resulted in a plea deal with Arkansas police. 

Plenty of players will get drafted that showed immaturity and even had offseason arrests. That's nothing new. 

For the Redskins, the biggest question remains Cousins' future. Once that's decided, or if it gets decided, the team will need to make a decision with the 13th pick. Looks like that decision could easily include Baker Mayfield. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Build up the defense and forget about big money QBs? It's not that easy

Build up the defense and forget about big money QBs? It's not that easy

Blake Bortles, Nick Foles and Case Keenum will be three of the four quarterbacks playing in on Championship Sunday this weekend. That's remarkable, as none of the three are considered elite passers.

The strength of those three teams is very obviously their defenses. Minnesota and Jacksonville rank as the top two defenses in the NFL, and the Eagles rank fourth. 

Naturally, in a copycat league like the NFL, many fans are starting to wonder how to emulate the model established by the success of the Vikings, Jaguars and Eagles. For Redskins fans facing the possibility of losing Kirk Cousins to free agency or paying the franchise record holder upwards of $28 million a year or more, is investing heavily in the defense and saving money at the QB position a faster path to playoff success?

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The question makes sense.

The answer, however, is much harder to explain.  

Let's dispel a few myths to start. The Eagles have a great defense, sure, but Philadelphia was getting fantastic quarterback play from second-year star Carson Wentz. He got hurt late in the regular season. Playing Foles was never the plan in Philadelphia, and the Eagles invested heavily in draft picks to trade up and acquire Wentz. Do not for a second think Philadelphia got Wentz on the cheap. 

Next up we have Keenum. Yes, he's cheap, with a salary of less than $2 million. He's also been terrific.

One of the more interesting QB situations in the last decade unfolded in Minnesota this season. Highly paid Sam Bradford ($18 million in 2017) got hurt, and Keenum took off like a rocket as the backup. In 14 starts he's completed 67 percent of his passes for more than 3,500 yards to go with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions. The Vikes went 11-3 with Keenum at the helm in the regular season, and just logged an incredible 29-24 comeback win over the Saints in the divisional round. In the final seconds of the victory, Keenum threw the game-winning TD. 

Lastly, there's Bortles. His numbers this year were decent. He runs a conservative offense and does a pretty good job. He threw for nearly 3,700 yards with 21 TDs against 13 INTs. He was plenty good for the Jaguars as they pulled off a stunning 45-42 upset in Pittsburgh in the divisional round last weekend. Jacksonville used a ton of draft capital to select Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 and the team has already picked up his $19 million option for the 2018 season. Nothing cheap there. 

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Beyond the quarterbacks, obviously, the Vikings, Eagles and Jags all have terrific defenses. Much of that came in the way of smart free agent decisions. 

Much of the success of the three defenses also came from good drafting, season after season. 

Jacksonville's 2016 draft haul is incredibly impressive. In the first three rounds, the Jags selected Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue. All three now start, and star, for the Jacksoville defense. 

Minnesota drafted Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr over the last four seasons, with plenty of other contributors coming via the draft as well. 

One year after giving up four picks to acquire Wentz, the Eagles went defense with their first three selections in 2017. 

The point isn't that free agency can't make a good defense into a great one, that can happen. But to build a truly great defense, significant draft capital needs to be used. Teams must nail their first round picks, and hit on a few players later in the draft as well. 

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Further, stop thinking that just because Bortles, Foles and Keenum are starting this weekend that those teams didn't spend plenty at QB. Minnesota had more than $22 million invested at the quarterback position in 2017. Bortles was a third overall pick, and the Eagles gave up four picks  just for the chance to acquire Wentz. 

For Redskins fans, know that building the defense is absolutely a strong strategy. Last year, Washington used its first three draft selections on defensive players for the first time in 20 years. This offseason, the Redskins should again look to add talent on defense, both through the draft and free agency. 

That success will not come over night, however, and it will not come without a capable quarterback. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!