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Need to Know: Redskins taking big risks either way with Cousins contract

Need to Know: Redskins taking big risks either way with Cousins contract

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 8, 20 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 180 days ago. It will be 66 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 7; Preseason opener @ Falcons 34; Final roster cut 57

The Redskins are gambling on Cousins either way

Redskins fans have divided into two camps when it comes to a long-term contract for quarterback Kirk Cousins.

—The Redskins should do whatever it takes to sign him before the deadline (coming up on July 15, one week from today) because it will cost them a lot more if they wait and he has even a good year, let along a great one.

—The Redskins need to wait and see if Cousins really is the quarterback he was in the last 10 games of last year. Paying top-shelf quarterback money to a mid- to lower- level quarterback would be a salary cap disaster.

The thing is both sides have a valid argument.

—If they give in and pay Cousins what he wants now, something in the neighborhood of $22 million per year with some $50 million or more in guaranteed money, the Redskins risk overpaying their quarterback. That could leave them unable to acquire and/or retain the talent needed to win with a pedestrian QB.

—If they hold firm and then watch as Cousins plays well in 2016 they would be plunged into a quarterback market where contracts for even mediocre quarterbacks are high and getting higher. They could end up paying several million dollars more per season for Cousins’ services than they would have if they had just slightly overpaid him (from their perspective) in 2016.

So there are major risks either way the Redskins go. The way it looks right now, they are leaning towards holding firm, willing to take the chance that Cousins will have a full season like he had the last 10 games of 2015, potentially sending the cost of a long-term contract skyrocketing.

I have a hard time being too critical of them if they do stick with this stance. It is very rational for the organization to believe they don’t yet have a handle on his true value based on one season as a full-time starter and therefore a major, long term commitment right now would be unwise. They will be happy to pay a quarterback $20 million to $25 million, perhaps more, if they are sure that he is worth the money.

It should be noted that there are risks on Cousins’ end as well. If he doesn’t take the Redskins’ last, best offer he risks seeing that money vaporize if he plays poorly or gets injured. But if he takes it and leads the team on a deep playoff run he will have left millions of dollars on the table.

As we get closer to the deadline, the risks tend to get magnified. And as that happens, the pressure to make a deal increases exponentially. We will see if Cousins and the Redskins both stand firm as the pressure mounts or if one or the other gives way.

In case you missed it 

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

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

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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.