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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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Colt McCoy not with Redskins for OTAs as he recovers from another leg procedure, per source

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Colt McCoy not with Redskins for OTAs as he recovers from another leg procedure, per source

In more than four seasons with the Redskins, Colt McCoy hasn't missed a single offseason workout or training session. Until now. 

McCoy is not in Ashburn as the Redskins currently work through phase one of offseason workouts. Instead, per doctor's orders the quarterback is back in Texas recovering from another procedure on his leg, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

How things got to this point between the Redskins and their quarterbacks is almost hard to believe.

Alex Smith broke his tibia and fibula last November, and then shockingly, McCoy broke his fibula two weeks later in an early December game in Philadelphia. 

Despite the broken leg, the Redskins hoped to get McCoy back for a possible late season playoff game. Washington head coach Jay Gruden explained that McCoy and the team pushed too hard to get back in 2018, and that's what caused the quarterback's setback this spring. 

"What happened was when he had the injury we were aggressive trying to get him back on the field so fast we didn’t give it time enough to heal the right way so they went back in and did a small procedure to make sure that thing is on track to be full strength by the season," Gruden explained at the NFL League Meetings in Arizona last month.

Now, McCoy has undergone another minor procedure on his leg, his third since the December injury, though the source maintains he could be back in Ashburn as soon as next week.

McCoy and Case Keenum will enter training camp competing for the top quarterback job, and the former University of Texas star is expected to be fully healthy when the team heads to Richmond. 

Of course, it's also possible the Redskins add another passer in this week's NFL Draft. Whether that happens in the first round or the late rounds, with Keenum and McCoy in the last year of their contracts, adding a rookie makes sense. 

Smith is due more than $40 million from the Redskins over the next two seasons, and Washington can only add an affordable contract on the books at the QB position. The way to do that is via the draft. 


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    If the Redskins want to trade back in the NFL Draft, one team makes a lot of sense

    If the Redskins want to trade back in the NFL Draft, one team makes a lot of sense

    The Redskins want to trade back in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

    Says who? Says Washington Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, that's who. 

    "I’m going to go on the record and say that’s a possibility that we won’t trade up, but there’s a great possibility we’ll trade back if that opportunity came," Williams said on Monday during the team's pre-draft media session.

    While trading up seems unlikely, trading back could certainly happen. The Redskins have needs - quarterback, wide receiver and edge rusher stand out - but the team isn't exactly desperate at any position. In turn, more picks could help in more areas. And more picks come from trading down. 

    "I'm not going to sit here and say we got to get better at any position, which we know we have to get better overall as a football team," Williams said.

    Rotoworld's Josh Norris explained one exact trade down scenario that could work for Washington (see above video).

    The Houston Texans must add help at offensive tackle, and the consensus has most of the best tackles taken by the 18th or 20th spot. If Houston wants to get their tackle, like Florida's Jawaan Taylor for example, the Texans might need to move up. In turn, the Redskins can offer their 15th pick to Houston in exchange for the 23rd spot and an additional pick later in the draft, perhaps as high as a third. 

    At 23, the Redskins can get their pick of a number of need positions, like left guard, wide receiver or cornerback. 

    "That's where those talents match up with the value," Norris said. 

    That makes sense, as there isn't a wideout or guard that demands to be taken at 15, but could match the Redskins' draft board eight picks later. Maybe a guy like Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown or Boston College OL Chris Lindstrom specifically.

    There's also the quarterback spot. 

    There are four rookie passers projected to be first round picks: Kyler Murray, Drew Lock, Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones. It seems possible Jones would be there at 23.

    Two other names to watch, particularly if a trade down scenario emerges for the Redskins. 

    Norris suggested the Redskins like Maryland safety Darnell Savage, and he is gaining momentum as a possible late first-round selection. 

    Additionally, one NFC scout told NBC Sports that he would not be shocked if West Virginia QB Will Grier sneaks into the end of the first round. Remember, first-round contracts automatically carry a team fifth-year option, an incredibly lucrative bonus considering the money some quarterbacks are making around the league. 

    Stay alert out there - it's almost draft day.