Football Team

In hindsight, Washington probably should’ve just signed Cousins

Football Team
Kirk Cousins

Alex Smith’s time in D.C. is nearly up as the Washington Football Team is reportedly expected to release the veteran quarterback and move in a new direction at the position.

That also closes the book on the trade Washington made to acquire him. Under former team president Bruce Allen, the team shipped cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for Smith on Jan. 30, 2018. Washington did have Kirk Cousins in the building prior to the trade but let him walk in free agency because it didn’t want to pay him. That was the end of a years-long saga where Cousins twice played on the franchise tag. 

While Smith should be applauded for working his way back from the gruesome compound fracture he suffered in 2018 in a game against the Houston Texans, the trade didn’t reap its intended rewards.

Smith started 16 of Washington’s 48 regular season games over the last three years. He threw for 3,762 passing yards (209 YPG) with a 64.3 completion percentage, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The team went 11-5 in his starts but his injuries forced Washington to cycle through a carousel of quarterbacks that included Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke.

If Washington had the chance to do things over, NBC Sports Washington insider JP Finlay thinks the team should’ve gone in a very different direction.

“If we’re going hindsight, just pay Kirk,” Finlay said on Monday's episode of the Washington Football Talk podcast. “Pay Kirk, keep the third-rounder, keep Kendall Fuller, keep this operation intact. They had awful leadership, they made awful decisions.”


After Washington franchise tagged Cousins twice, he signed a three-year, $84 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings that at the time set a record for the largest sum of guaranteed money in NFL history. On the same day Cousins’ contract was finalized, Washington traded for Smith and immediately gave him a four-year, $94 million extension.

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In the three years since, Cousins has averaged over 4,000 passing yards per year and led the Vikings to a pair of playoff appearances. While he still carries a reputation for failing to come through in big games, Cousins made the Pro Bowl in 2019 and won his first career postseason game that season.

Meanwhile, Washington has since overhauled its entire franchise before playing in its first playoff game in five years this past January — with Smith sidelined due to injury.

“I think they put themselves into a mess of a corner that they then kind of fought their way out of. But just don’t be in the corner,” Finlay said. “It was awful leadership from Bruce Allen and the trade was a result of that.

“The trade is a C-. It’s not Alex’s fault. He was who he is when he was here and certainly an inspiration for what he did off the field in the comeback and everything. But you can’t look at that trade as a win for the organization and you can’t at this point ignore the injury. That was part of it, too. All these things happened and that wasn’t part of the plan but it still happened.”