With the Redskins mired in a second-straight year of contract squabbles with their starting quarterback, it's obvious the team does not see the same value that Kirk Cousins sees for himself.
Looking last week at a series of comments from Cousins and his agent Mike McCartney, it's obvious the passer sets his value with the franchise tag. This mindset makes sense, considering Cousins played on a one-year tag last year and is poised to do so again in 2017, making a combined $44 million along the way.
There is a school of thought that says the Redskins need to pay up for Cousins, regardless of the cost. Quarterbacks get paid exorbitant sums in the NFL, and Cousins has proved he can play at a high level the past two seasons.
Another school of thought is unsure what Cousins' true value is, and much of that is based on the quality of the Redskins offense and the QB's true role in it. Consider Andy Benoit of the MMQB.com in the latter camp.
Kirk Cousins more valuable to #Redskins than almost any other team. A system QB who works well in Gruden’s brilliant system.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) March 20, 2017
Over the last two seasons Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards and twice broke the franchise's single season passing record. The offense has largely looked efficient with Cousins at quarterback, and in flashes, has looked explosive.
Yet, plenty of NFL folks, on and off the record, don't think Cousins is the engine driving the offense. Benoit's tweet makes clear he thinks Jay Gruden's offense is a bigger benefit to Cousins than the QB is to Gruden's offense.
Consider that in 2014, Gruden's first year as coach, the Redskins passed for 4,047 yards. That season saw a combination of Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy and Cousins start games for Washington, and plenty of subpar quarterback play.
In 2015, Cousins took the reins and passed for 4,166 yards. The increase from the year before was slight, and that included a stellar final quarter of the season from Cousins. In 2016, Cousins passing yardage jumped to 4,917, but his touchdowns decreased and his interceptions increased by one.
The reality here may be a chicken and egg scenario. Is Cousins good because of the offensive system? Or is the offensive system good because Cousins runs it? Remember, also, that some folks at Redskins Park believe Colt McCoy could produce similar numbers to Cousins at a much reduced cost.
2017 will be a particularly interesting case study in this debate, as many of the key pieces of the offense have changed. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon are gone, and Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor will take their place as the starting WRs. What impact will that have on Cousins numbers?
For the Redskins, weighing the system against the individual talents of Cousins may prove to be the hardest question to answer before the July 15 franchise tag negotiation deadline.
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