…not this year. And probably not next year.
The notion that Redskins back-up quarterback Cousins is an investment Draft pick was born on Draft Day 2012. The crowd weighs every event in his NFL career against his value as a Draft pick. I read a few comments that, by taking all the first team practice snaps while Robert Griffin III recuperates, his trade value rises.
Everybody but the Redskins front office talks about Cousins' trade value. Mike Shanahan is as inscrutable as ever on the topic.
Why Cousins won't be traded this year
The 'Skins would have been more open to a trade if RGIII were not injured. They expressed optimism for his return as they mailed season ticket notices and negotiated with the league for prime-time exposure.
Griffin appears set for an early season return to the line-up. If Mike Shanahan has any inkling that Griffin III will not be 100 percent until later, or (gasp) will open the season on the PUP List, I doubt he will consider any offer for Cousins. If traded, Cousins would have to be replaced by someone not named Rex Grossman, or Vince Young.
The Redskins are living with the league-imposed $36 million cap issue and have little maneuvering room to sign a veteran free agent with little upside who would be more costly than Cousins. Replacing Cousins now is a headache they don't need right now.
A 2013 trade would have already happened if it was to be.
Why Cousins won't be traded next year
Washington does not have a first round 2014 Draft pick. They traded that pick to the Rams for the rights to RGIII. What they do have is a baked-in $18 million bump in the 2014 salary cap. Hog Heaven expects that they will target free agents that will provide an immediate boost to their title hopes – defensive backs and offensive linemen.
Washington lost the bidding war, as the NFL Management Council wished them to, for CB Antoine Winfield who signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Adderall-brained Seahawks. They did not try for CB Darrelle Revis, now with Tampa Bay. Hog Heaven does not believe they have solved their issues at right tackle with journeymen Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos.
2014 will be a big free agent year for the Redskins, so why not sign a free agent quarterback. Kirk Cousins is a ridiculously priced for a quarterback quarterback thanks to the rookie pay scale. He makes (round numbers) about $650,000 in salary and counts a shade under $600,000 against the cap.
Jason Campbell signed a two-year, $3.75 million contract as the likely back-up QB for the Cleveland Browns. (Sidebar: Norv Turner's downfield offense should be a good match for Jason. Keep an eye on that.)
I give a 66 percent chance that the Jets will release Mark Sanchez in 2014. Even the maligned Sanchez would command a salary of $1.5 million per year. Daniel Snyder once lusted for Mark Sanchez in preference to Campbell, but I doubt even he would prefer Sanchez to Cousins for the price.
JaMarcus Russell is trying for a comeback. His six-year, $61 million contract in 2007 is why owners conspired to lock out players in 2011. Even if Russell signs for the veteran minimum contract, he would not beat Cousins' value.
Finally, 2014 could shape up as the year the Redskins break through to the Super Bowl. Cousins has shown himself enough of a closer that Mike Shanahan would prefer to keep him after three years in his system.
The more Washington shapes up as a Super Bowl contender, the tighter the Redskins hold on to Cousins.
Why the Redskins might trade Cousins in 2015
Look at the three most prominent members of the Redskins' 2012 Draft class: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and Kirk Cousins. You are GM Bruce Allen and you can extend any two of those three. Who ya got?
The 2012 rookies will be free agents after the 2016 season. Every team will make decisions about their keepers in the prior year – 2015. RGIII is an absolute must. The Redskins would extend him to a 10-year deal right now if the CBA allowed it. (It does not.) By 2016, top-tier quarterbacks like Griffin will command something like $150 million on a long-term deal. Future broadcast revenue will fuel huge bumps to the salary cap. Griffin's next contract will still be a big pill to swallow.
Allen is clearing space for the next deal with Griffin beginning with contracts he signs this year. Brian Orakpo's deal, if they are able to re-sign him, will be structured so that it does not hinder Griffin's future in Washington. Losing Griffin would get a lot of people fired.
Grossly underpaid Alfred Morris is also a keeper, provided he is in good health. Running backs endure a lot of wear and tear. Morris out-performed his Draft level. He is the most underpaid player in the NFL. If he is like me – and I know I am – Morris will want to recover lost income in his next NFL contract.
Minnesota signed Adrian Peterson to a seven-year, $96 million deal ($36 million guaranteed) in 2011. Peterson did not enter the league underpaid. He did not have income to recover. Morris should want Peterson's deal, plus a $4 million premium. I'm ready to extend Morris' contract right now.
Cousins could be the odd man out in this scenario, though that could clear his path to become a starter elsewhere. Shanahan would be more open to trade offers for a player he may not be able to keep.
The Cardinals traded a frontline player, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and a second-round pick for Kevin Kolb in 2011.
Green Bay failed to get trade value for Matt Flynn; maybe they knew something. Free agent Flynn failed to beat out Russell Wilson as Seahawks starter. Seattle traded Flynn to Oakland for a 2014 fifth-round Draft pick and a conditional 2015 pick.
Alex Smith appeared in 80 games for the 49ers. San Francisco traded him to Kansas City for a 2013 second-round Draft pick and a conditional 2014 pick.
Cousins impressed in the 2012 preseason. He will have the chance to do it again this preseason. Mike Shanahan barely allowed Griffin to play last preseason when he was healthy. We won't see RGIII preseason at all this year. Cousins saved a win against the Ravens and he led Washington to a win over the Browns.
The ideal scenario for Cousins and for the Redskins is that he continues to show well in preseason games and in rare appearances in the 2013-'14 seasons so that Washington receives offers that open with a 2015 second-round pick. If his performance erodes, Cousins' trade value degrades to a third-day Draft pick and to another back-up spot.
The ideal team for Cousins is…
Pittsburgh, Houston or Cleveland, if Norv Turner is still the offensive coordinator.
Cousins spent four years in Michigan State's pro style offense, three of them as undisputed starter. He also spent a season in Mike Shanahan's West Coast Offense. He fits the downfield offense and Turner is the leading practitioner of that style. Ben Roethlisberger's career will be winding down in 2015. Cousins is young enough to be his heir-apparent.
Gary Kubiak coaches his version of Shanahan's WCO. OC Kyle Shanahan jumped to Washington fresh from the Texans offense. Familiarity with the Kubiak-Shanahan plan is Cousins best friend. Houston is a super team. Cousins can match Matt Schaub's performance on that team.
The best offers will come before any other team is sure how good Cousins is, or is not. And the best trade offers will come from the most QB-needy teams. In 2015 that's likely to be the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders or Jacksonville Jaguars. Or, it just might be the Dallas Cowboys.
I asked the Hog Heaven Magic 8-Ball if Cousins would start for the Cowboys, the answer was an ominous "Better not tell you now."
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