By now even the most staunch optimist should realize that come Monday at 4 p.m. Kirk Cousins still may not be a Redskin for the long haul. With Cousins set to make 23.94M this year if the two parties do not reach an agreement on a long-term contract come next week he could be set for a 3rd tag. Though Bruce Allen did not rule out Cousins playing a 3rd straight year on the franchise tag, the price, and single year cap hit would be astronomical for the NFL coming in at 34.47M. What I think is more likely to happen whether Cousins plays on a 3rd tag or walks is that the Redskins will be QB shopping in 2018.
My Top 15 Prospects
- Sam Darnold, USC, 6-4 / 225lbs
- Josh Rosen, UCLA, 6-2 / 210lbs
- Josh Allen, Wyoming, 6-5 / 230lbs
- Luke Falk, Washington State, 6-4 / 216lbs
- Lamar Jackson, Louisville, 6-3 / 205lbs
- Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, 6-5 / 235 lbs
- Jarrett Stidham, Auburn, 6-3 / 210lbs
- Clayton Thorson, Northwestern, 6-4 / 220lbs
- Deondre Francois, Florida State, 6-2 / 205lbs
- Mike White, Western Kentucky, 6-4 / 215lbs
- Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State, 6-5 / 230lbs
- Austin Allen, Arkansas, 6-1 / 209lbs
- Jake Browning, Washington, 6-2 / 209lbs
- Logan Woodside, Toledo, 6-2 / 201lbs
- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, 6-1 / 210lbs
Opinion: Top 3 QBs Set. . .Then A Cliff
I think most draft boards will have Darnold, Rosen, and J. Allen as the top 3 prospects and I do not expect that to shift much if at all through the college season. Watching these top three guys play it's clear that they have the skill and stand a better chance at transitioning to an NFL level offense based on what their coaches have surrounded them with. It will be likely that all 3 will be first round picks if they continue their upward trajectories.
With Cousins under the tag this year I can't see the Redskins finishing worse than the middle of the pack in the draft order. That likely means the top three options are out the window unless the Redskins have an unexpectedly terrible season, trade up, or are willing to select a QB with their 1st round pick in 2018.
The next tier consists of Falk, Jackson, and Rudolph. Stidham can make his way into this tier as well if the hype about him is real. Those guys will likely go in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. All have serious deficiencies to the game and will not be NFL-ready passers. Falk plays in an Air Raid offense and has put up some impressive numbers but will have to prove he can learn and play in other concepts.
Jackson, the reigning Heisman winner, is no doubt talented but he will have to show he can add size and can be more than just an improviser and can get past his 1st read. He will have to take an even larger jump this season to prove he can make it at the next level.
Rudolph suffers from similar issues as the first two and plays in the defense-deficient BIG12.
The rest of this guys are really crap shoots and all are far away from being ready to step in and run and NFL offense.
The Best Scenario: Cousins Signs A Third Tag
Though unlikely because of the price Cousins playing under yet another franchise tag would allow the Redskins to draft a QB and have that player have a much-needed bench year to study the game and get used to the NFL. The Redskins could prepare and have a clear plan and vision put in place for the next signal caller.
The Worst Scenario: Cousins Becomes A Free Agent After This Season
This is bad aside from the reason that the Redskins would be losing a top 10 QB. Cousins is home grown and though we plainly saw his deficiencies early on in his career he has grown exponentially as an NFL QB in this offense. He has shown he can persevere, learn, and deliver in tough spots. Even if the Redskins are lucky enough to choose the right QB that process would have to be started all over again and barring a serious bump in performance by the defense it would set the team back at least half handful of seasons.
Opinion: Who Would Jay Gruden Like?
Aside from Cousins I only see a handful of QBs from my list fitting in this offense. Because of their throwing skills, mechanics, and demonstrated ability to run a Pro Style or pseudo pro style offense, Darnold, Rosen, and J. Allen are still the obvious top three choices. If the Redskins were to spend a 1st rounder on a QB my bet would be on Rosen or Allen as I think Darnold has top 10 potential. From there the prospects get slim. Falk, Stidham, and Woodside would be the only prospects that stand a chance to me with Falk and Stidham being mid round picks and Woodside being the late rounder. The other QBs on the list are hampered by their school’s heavy Read Option / Spread offenses, size, and lack of fundamentals and consistency to this point.
Suck For Darnold, Rosen, or Allen?
If the worst happens and it becomes clear that Cousins will be moving on after this season how do you feel about the team rolling out a mediocre performance for draft position?
Keep Calm And Bet On The Dark Horse(s)
There is no rule saying the Redskins HAVE to spend a top pick if Cousins walks. The college football season starts in a month and a half. Should the team stay committed to their BPA* strategy by way of shoring up the defense? A few mid to late round options to watch are Stidham, Thorson, and Woodside. All three will have to show great growth this season but all three also have the tools to be successful.
Let me know what you think the best move going forward is if Cousins is no longer a Redskin past 2017.