The Redskins made a big mistake with Kirk Cousins, but it's not what you think

Kirk Cousins broke numerous Redskins passing records in three seasons as the starting quarterback. He stabilized the most important position on the field in a way that hadn't happened for more than 20 years. 

And now Cousins will play for another team.

For two straight offseasons, in 2016 and 2017, the Washington front office proved unable to get a long-term contract done with Cousins. This offseason, the team moved forward, acquiring Alex Smith from Kansas City and setting the scene for Cousins to walk in free agency.

For some fans, the biggest Redskins error came in not locking Cousins to the team for a multi-year deal. 

That's the overly simplisitc view. 

Sure, Washington messed up by not getting a deal done in 2016. Reports show Cousins wanted $19 million per season then, which would look like a bargain now. But at the time, Cousins was hardly a proven commodity. He played very well to finish the 2015 season, but that was a four-game stretch after an up-and-down 12 game start. 


Cousins has since proved unequivocally he was a top half of the league NFL starter, and maybe Top 10.  But before the 2016 season, plenty of folks around the NFL weren't so sure. 

It was certainly a mistake, and it looks much worse in hindsight, but not egregious at the time.

By the 2017 offseason, Cousins made it clear he wasn't signing long-term in Washington. And that's when the mistakes got egregious. 

Rather than waiting out the entire negotiating period before issuing an odd proclamation that Cousins would not negotiate with the team, which was true, the Redskins should have proactively tried to trade their QB last year. 

Cousins had value on the trade market in 2015. He had more value on the trade market in 2016. 

He ABSOLUTELY had value on the trade market in 2017.

Washington will now likely get a compensatory third-round pick in 2019 when Cousins signs with a new team. Roughly the 97th pick. The Redskins could have done much better than that if they traded Cousins last season, when both sides knew the awkward, forced marriage was likely to dissolve one year later. 

Fans can berate the Redskins about not getting a long-term deal done with Cousins in 2016, but things weren't as certain then as they're made to be now. 

If there's one thing to be mad about, it's the lack of compensation for Cousins' departure. 

Stop debating if Kirk deserves the cash. That's irrelevant now. The machine is in motion, and it won't be stopped. 

In all likelihood, about a week from now Kirk Cousins will sign the richest NFL contract in history. Clearly, the marketplace values his skillset. 

The Redskins didn't. What could have netted the organization a bevy of draft picks will result in much less. That's where the team missed the mark. 

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