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Shanahan’s comments could make it harder to get a first-rounder for Cousins

Mike Shanahan

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan speaks during a media availability at their NFL football training facility, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Ashburn, Va. Kirk Cousins will start for the Redskins on Sunday, and Robert Griffin III will be the No. 3 quarterback behind Rex Grossman. Shanahan went ahead with his plan to sit Griffin, further stoking the turmoil surrounding the future of the coach. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Redskins coach Mike Shanahan capped a bizarre week by openly talking about possibly getting a first-round pick for quarterback Kirk Cousins, if Cousins plays well in the final three games of the season. Which will be played against a trio of average-to-bad-defenses.

Shanahan possibly blurted out flipping Cousins for a first-round pick in response to the intense criticism he has received for shutting down franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III. Even Shanahan’s own son didn’t like the move (a position that could help Kyle when the time comes to move on).

Regardless, talking about getting a first-round pick for Cousins could make it harder to get a first-round pick for Cousins. These are high-stakes negotiations, driven by all sorts of subtleties and tells. The rookie wage scale has made first-round picks even more valuable to the teams that have them.

If it’s believed that the Redskins are now motivated to move Cousins, they’ll get a first-round pick for him only if they can provoke an auction between two or more teams. By talking about trading Cousins, the “if you don’t want to give us a first-round pick we’ll keep him” position becomes far less convincing.

From Cousins’ perspective, Shanahan’s remarks could be regarded as a carrot. If he plays well down the stretch, he’ll be rewarded for two years of loyal service via a trade to a team where he’ll get to play on a regular basis. And Cousins won’t care if the Redskins can’t muster a first-round pick; now that the cat is out of the bag, Cousins will want to get out of D.C.

The only way to put the cat back in the bag could be to part ways with the guy who let it out. If Shanahan is gone, the team can revert to its position of saying nothing at all about trading Cousins, keeping him around as a capable backup to a starter who seems destined to get injured again. And again.

Which brings us back to where we were a week ago. Shanahan apparently wants out. Undermining the team’s ability to maximize Kirk Cousins’ trade value could be just another example of Shanahan’s effort to get himself fired.