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Gruden extension doesn't necessarily equal good news for Cousins long-term deal

Gruden extension doesn't necessarily equal good news for Cousins long-term deal

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden installed Kirk Cousins at starting quarterback before the 2015 season. It was unpopular with some at the time, but in the two subsequent seasons, the move to bench Robert Griffin III for Cousins looks good, and the results have been strong enough to make both men wildly rich.

Gruden landed a two-year contract extension over the weekend, which extends his deal with the Redskins through 2020. His original deal pays him more than $4 million per season, and while terms of the extension have not been released, there is zero reason to expect Gruden will take a pay cut. 

Cousins played the 2015 season on the last year of his rookie deal, and made just $660,000. While that's a lot of money for regular folks, for NFL quarterbacks, it's peanuts. In 2016, playing on the franchise tag, Cousins made nearly $20 million. This season, Cousins could make $24 million playing on another franchise tag, and if he signs a multi-year deal, that money will increase exponentially.

Considering their mutual success, a 17-14-1 record over the last two seasons to go with a 2015 NFC East title, it's easy to assume that Gruden's extension could be helpful as the Redskins work to secure Cousins to a long-term contract.

It even makes sense. Knowing that the coach and offensive system that's been crucial to his success are locked in place for the 'Skins, Cousins could feel increased security in commiting to a future with Washington. 

Unless it doesn't.

Think about this from a different angle: If the Redskins really are considering trading Cousins, as multiple reports have suggested, locking up their coach for the next phase is a must. 

As CSN reported in January, 'Skins backup QB Colt McCoy is viewed as a viable, significantly cheaper alternative to Cousins by some at Redskins Park. MMQB's Albert Breer expanded on that mindset,

"The Redskins do believe they can win in the short term with McCoy, and there’s a feeling that it’d be better to just resolve the Cousins situation now—whether it’s giving him a new deal or trading him—and not setting up to be in this position again in spring 2018."

In addition to the threat of losing Cousins, the Redskins stand to lose one or both of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon. Both were 1,000 yard receivers for Washington in 2016, and losing either would be a blow for the offense.

For Gruden, knowing that losing one or both of his top wideouts, not to mention a possible Cousins trade, remains on the horizon, a contract extension seems downright neccesary. If the 'Skins go into 2017 with McCoy at QB and without Jackson and/or Garçon, it seems the team could take a step back from the progress of the last two years. And a step back, in the fourth year of a five-year deal, likely would mean saying goodbye to the coach. 

Instead, Gruden gets an extension. In turn, hypothetically, he knows he has the security to withstand an offensive shift at quarterback. 

If a situation arises where the Redskins cannot get a deal done with Cousins, trading him this offseason makes sense. Get something now before next offseason when the team would get nothing. 

Gruden might not want the Redskins to trade Cousins, at all, but it would be very hard for Gruden to support a trade going into the 4th year of a 5-year deal. In the 4th year of a 7-year deal, however, things look quite different. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, January 20, 53 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 45
—NFL Draft (4/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 232

The Redskins week that was

Jags big win could spell bad news for Kirk Cousins—If the Jaguars’ accomplishment of getting to the AFC championship game does indeed make Blake Bortles’ job safe, the laws of economics say that the amount of money that Cousins can command in a free agent contract should go down. It’s the demand part of supply and demand and if demand goes down, prices should, too. But the NFL quarterback market doesn’t follow the laws. If the Lions see fit to pay Matthew Stafford, a quarterback under whom they have had very limited success, a contract with an average annual value of $27 million without any team bidding against them, that sets the price.

Setting the odds on what happens with Kirk Cousins—Despite his happy talk at the 106.7 The Fan event earlier this month, the possibility that Cousins will play in a Redskins uniform in 2018 does not warrant a large bet of imaginary casino chips. If you missed the post, take a look and let me know what you think of my assessment.

Don't freak out about latest Zach Brown tweet—It’s that time of year. A player sends out a tweet with no context and fans assign the worst possible meaning to it. In Brown’s case, a tweet about not getting respect was interpreted as a sign that contract negotiations with the Redskins were not going well. But JP Finlay found out that the tweet was about Brown being upset that another alternate getting selected to the Pro Bowl and not him. It still is unclear if Brown will return to the Redskins but at least there are no indications of rocky negotiations at this point.

Bang for the free agent bucks for the Redskins? Brown was a solid free agent acquisition for the Redskins last year. Terrelle Pryor, not so much. Take a look at the post for the other hits and misses in free agency.

Tweet of the week

Even though the draft is over three months away there are plenty of opinions out there as this tweet drew a ton of reaction. On the offensive side of the ball, the suggestions ran towards quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield although some want a running back. It will be interesting to see how those two non-conventional quarterbacks look after they spend the next few months under the microscope of the NFL draft process. The defensive name that kept coming up was Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, a large specimen who could play the nose in base defense and move to three-technique in nickel.

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.

In case you missed it

 

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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.