It does not matter what happens this Sunday against the New York Giants. Win or lose, quarterback Kirk Cousins has more than proved himself worthy of a long-term contract.
Last year, it made sense to slap the franchise tag on Cousins. The Redskins won a weak division at an uneven 9-7, and Cousins had really only played well the second-half of the season. Bringing him back on a “prove-it” deal worked for both sides. Cousins made a fortune, and the Redskins got another chance to see him over a full year before committing.
And prove it he did. Through 15 games this season, Cousins ranks second in passing yards (and first in franchise history – breaking his record from last season), third in yards per attempt, fifth in completion percentage, and third in sacks (among quarterbacks with at least 400 pass attempts). We now have 31 games of Cousins as a starter in Jay Gruden’s offense. Did it take him a few games to get going in 2015? Definitely. But since then, he has lit up the league time and time again.
This Redskins team is massively flawed. The defense cannot stop anyone, the running attack is inconsistent (even with Rob Kelley), and special teams isn’t doing a whole lot either. The Redskins need this passing attack to thrive every single week in order to have a chance to win. Cousins has given them that. Yes, the Redskins have maybe the best group of receivers in the game. But those players are rendered useless without a guy feeding them the ball. Cousins is that guy.
A lot of people argue that Cousins is a system quarterback. And he might be. But what’s wrong with that? The system isn’t changing any time soon! I know Scot McCloughan’s modus operandi is to build from the trenches outward. He wants a dominant defense, and a ball-control offense. Just look at his San Francisco and Seattle teams as examples. But that is not what is happening here in Washington. The defense stinks (whether that is more coaching or personnel will have to be figured out in the offseason), and the running game is all over the place. The strength of this team is through the air, and it will be that way for awhile. It’s time to embrace that. Say Cousins wasn’t here, and it was Colt McCoy running the offense. There is no way this team is even sniffing playoff contention. Cousins, meanwhile, gives the ‘Skins a chance to win against perhaps any team in the league, and comes through more often than not.
The Redskins do have the option of franchise tagging Cousins once more for the 2017 season. But why? What more does he have to prove? There is no reason to keep him twisting in the wind.
Locking Cousins up also allows the Redskins to franchise one of their other potential free agents, such as Chris Baker, DeSean Jackson, or Pierre Garcon. Yes, signing Cousins long term loads up part of their cap, but they aren’t completely blowing all of their flexibility. And if the Redskins did tag him, it would cost them a lot for the 2017 season, even more than it is right now. Why keep kicking the can when you’re still paying an exorbitant amount? Sign him now, and get some good will going forward with one of your key players.
Cousins has the numbers. He has the wins. Everybody loves him – in the locker room, in the media, and in the fan base. Sometimes, the best answer is the one that’s right in front of you.