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Redskins position outlook: Deal or tag? Cousins' status will affect '17 plans

Redskins position outlook: Deal or tag? Cousins' status will affect '17 plans

Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will evaluate each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and look forward to the unit's outlook for 2017.


2016 starter: Kirk Cousins

Backups: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld

Free agents: Cousins

Rewind: In some ways, Cousins was better than he was in 2015 when he burst onto the scene and grabbed the Redskins’ starting quarterback job. But in some other ways, he was worse.

Cousins passed for 4,917 yards, shattering the team record he had set the year before. His average per attempt went up nearly half a yard. But he threw four fewer touchdown passes last year despite attempting 27 more passes. His passer rating slipped about four points, dipping below the 100 mark that is the rough equivalent of a baseball player batting .300.

But the difference between Cousins’ 2015 and 2016 season is not so much measured by the numbers as it was by looking at the results of games. Two years ago the Redskins needed to win three games down the stretch to make the playoffs. Cousins passed for 300 yards against the Bears, 319 against the Bills and 365 in the division clinching win over the Eagles.

This year, however, in two must-win home games down the stretch Cousins was not nearly as effective as the Redskins dropped two of their final three to miss out on the playoffs. The end came on an ugly interception Cousins threw in the last two minutes against the Giants.

Neither loss was completely on the shoulders of Cousins, just like the rest of the team had a lot to do with the 2015 wins. But Cousins did not step up and take his game to another level when the team needed him to. That’s what the best quarterbacks in the league do. Cousins could get there but he’s not there yet.

Cousins was the only quarterback to take a snap. The only buzz surrounding McCoy came when Jay Gruden revealed that he was the team’s emergency long snapper. Sudfeld was the inactive third QB all year.  

Fast forward: It is very likely that Cousins is back under center for the Redskins in 2017 whether via the franchise tag or a long-term deal. The way that it happens may influence how the team handles the position this offseason.

Should he sign a long-term contract they likely will stand pat. McCoy is under contract for another year and he would remain the backup. The organization would like to see Sudfeld develop to the point where he can become the active backup quarterback either in late 2017 or the year after that.

If Cousins gets and signs the franchise tag, however, it’s a different story. The organization would have to proceed as though he is in his last year as a Redskin. It would be easy to see them spending a second- or third-round pick on a quarterback to groom. At the very least they would need to invest in quarterback in the latter rounds of the draft to have someone to challenge Sudfeld since, at the very least, the 2017 third-string QB could very well play a key role in 2018.

Right now there seems to be a very slim chance that the Redskins will trade Cousins but that could change. If they do they will have to choose their starting quarterback from McCoy, a draft pick, or a horrendous list of possible free agents including Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Barkley, and Geno Smith.

2017 Position outlook series

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


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Two examples of why Dan Orlovsky believes Dwayne Haskins will excite Redskins fans

Two examples of why Dan Orlovsky believes Dwayne Haskins will excite Redskins fans

Scott Turner was asked about quarterback Dwayne Haskins' growth this offseason during a Zoom call with local media earlier this week, and the new Redskins offensive coordinator explained he was pleased with both Haskins' physical and mental progress.

Besides raving about the second-year quarterbacks imposing size and natural arm strength, Turner also dove into specific detail about one other thing that really stood out to him about Haskins: his ability to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a throw without much space.

Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky took to Twitter on Friday, tweeting out two video examples from Haskins' rookie season where the quarterback demonstrated the qualities Turner raved about.

The first example was a clip from the Redskins Week 11 contest against the Jets. The play went down in the scorebook as a 24-yard completion to Kelvin Harmon, but what the quarterback had to do in order to make this play successful was quite impressive.

For this play, Orlovsky explained how Haskins identified where the pressure was coming from pre-snap, causing him to shift the entire protection to the left. After the running back missed his block, Haskins didn't panic. The then-rookie QB stepped up in the pocket and fired a dart to Harmon on the in-route as the receiver broke open in the middle of the field.

"This is one of my favorite plays by him last year," Orlovsky explained. "It really is an example of the intellectual aspect of quarterback play with the feel aspect of quarterback play."


The second clip was from Washington's clash in Green Bay last season. On this particular snap, Haskins showed his mastery of the Packers' defense.

Haskins' initial read was to the right side, where Harmon was running an inside post route. But once the quarterback saw his first read was covered, he continued to look right, forcing Packers' safety Darnell Savage to slide in that direction. The passer then immediately turned to his backside, which created an open throwing lane to find Terry McLaurin in the middle of the field.

"It really shows a complete understanding of what the defense is, what the coverage is, and then a complete understanding of who on the defense he needs to move with his eyes to open up a window," Orlovsky said.

It's fair to mention that the Redskins would not win either of these games and that the rookie passer had his struggles in each of these contests. It's no secret that Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie, and there were examples of such in each of these matchups, too.

But Haskins did finish the season playing the best football of his young career, giving some hope for the future. Count Orlovsky in on those who are optimistic about the quarterback as he enters his second season with the team and his first as the team's true starter.

"There are so many examples on his tape that show how smart he actually is," Orlovsky said. 

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Kirk Cousins ranked ninth on Forbes' top 100 highest-paid athletes in 2020

Kirk Cousins ranked ninth on Forbes' top 100 highest-paid athletes in 2020

Former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is among the top 10 highest-paid athletes in the world in 2020, according to Forbes.

Cousins, who came in as the ninth highest-paid athlete overall, is the top-ranked NFL athlete on the list, coming in one spot above Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

Forbes estimated the Vikings QB's earnings at $60.5 million, with $58 million coming from his salary and $2.5 million from his endorsements.


In March, Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension with the Vikings, one that included a $30 million signing bonus. The signal-caller originally signed with the Vikings in 2018 on a three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million deal that at the time made him the highest-paid player in NFL history.

The Vikings signal-caller has earned over $130 million in his career thus far, according to OverTheCap.

Cousins spent the first six seasons of his career with the Redskins, with three of those years as the team's starter. The quarterback set the franchise's single-season passing yards record in 2016 when he threw for 4,917 yards for Washington. His 29 touchdown passes in 2017 were the second-most by any Redskins quarterback in a single-season.

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