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With 49ers off the board, is a return to the Redskins the best option for Kirk Cousins?

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With 49ers off the board, is a return to the Redskins the best option for Kirk Cousins?

For nearly a year, the 49ers circled Kirk Cousins like a shark looking for prey. San Francisco had gobs of cap space and the coach that drafted the Redskins quarterback.

It seemed, for months, that Washington would be forced to use an unprecedented third straight franchise tag on Cousins to keep their QB from going to the West Coast to play for Kyle Shanahan. 

A funny thing happened, though. 

The Niners made another move, acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots at the trade deadline in late October. Tom Brady's former backup has been great in San Francisco, winning all five games he started. 

Crazy things could happen, but 49ers GM John Lynch would be nuts to let Garoppolo go now. He will be the quarterback in San Francisco going forward.  

What does that mean for Cousins?

CLICK HERE FOR A GALLERY LISTING THE TEAMS KIRK COUSINS COULD END UP WITH IN 2018

That's a very legitimate question for the Redskins. Cousins is not under contract for 2018, and a third franchise tag would cost $34 million. Without the threat of San Francisco poaching Cousins, that cost seems outrageous. 

Let's be clear: Cousins will have numerous suitors should he hit free agency. There are never enough QBs in the NFL, let alone somebody with Cousins' qualifications. 

The Redskins passer started the last 48 games in Washington, a new record, and has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in the last three seasons, another record. Cousins is undeniably a verified NFL starting quarterback. Teams will want him.

For the Redskns, the question will come down to cost.

For Cousins, the question might come down to options. 

Assuming the 49ers are out of the picture, what is the best option for Kirk Cousins? It might very well be staying in D.C.

If that sounds ridiculous, consider that Cousins has found success playing QB in Washington the last three seasons. He knows head coach Jay Gruden's offense inside and out, and Gruden knows the strengths and weaknesses of his quarterback. 

The Redskins have two of the best offensive linemen in the NFL in Brandon Scherff and Trent Williams, not to mention another stalwart in Morgan Moses. The team needs more help at the skill positions, but that could come this offseason. 

Not to mention, the Redskins won seven games in 2017 even though the team sent five running backs to the injured reserve and got five starts out of Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed. 

With the 49ers likely off the market, and the same for Sean McVay's Rams, the Redskins might be the best place for Cousins, if he hits free agency or not. There will be more options, however, but what makes sense?

For an evaluation of all of Cousins' potential destinations, check out the gallery below.

CLICK HERE FOR A GALLERY LISTING THE TEAMS KIRK COUSINS COULD END UP WITH IN 2018

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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a Pro Bowl-type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know, we’re 7-9."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

ELITE 8 RESULTS

January 18: Round two, matchup one

The first Elite 8 matchup was... not close:

January 19: Round two, matchup two

The Elite 8's second tilt is underway. Vote now:


FIRST ROUND RESULTS

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

You'd think a turkey hat would be enough to capture a W, but not in this one:

January 17: Round one, matchup eight

The Elite 8 is now set with this showdown going to the retweets side: