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The Redskins Are Only Close If...

January 3, 2018
The belief inside the building at Redskins Park is that they are reasonably close.

The quarterback, who might not be here, believes they are close.

Your eyes and common sense should tell you that the Washington Redskins are close.

Close to what? That’s the real question. Are they close to being a playoff team? Yes and no.

Are they close to becoming a great team? Nobody should think that.

How about once again becoming an NFL doormat? I don’t believe so, but are they closer to the bottom than the top? Of course.

So where are they? The Redskins are only close if …..they get a long-term deal done with Kirk Cousins OR bring in Andy Dalton or Alex Smith via trade to be their starting quarterback.

That’s right. A one-year franchise tag at about $34 million is a disaster. You know that. They should know that and I have to believe that they do. It’s bad for the Redskins. It’s bad for the NFL. In a way, it’s bad for Kirk Cousins.

Sure, he would secure another huge paycheck and bank $78 million fully guaranteed over three seasons but the expectations that fans and quite honestly, the team that pays that has, are completely unrealistic.

The money that Cousins has been paid is not his fault. He’s been given no other choice. You can debate that, but you are completely wrong if you believe he has.

You could hear it in Jay Gruden’s voice on Tuesday, when he addressed reporters. There was disappointment in Cousins and the Redskins final performance of a calendar year that went bad from day one to day 365. Frustration was evident in Gruden’s message, intentional or not, because he knows that the only way he is ultimately judged is by wins and losses.

 He’s the head coach and rankings or statistics are great – but in the end, coaches are judged by the standings

It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. That’s why I am a big fan of using wins and losses as a PART of the evaluation when it comes to the quarterback spot, but not as the only means. If coaches are ultimately judged that way, quarterbacks must be evaluated by more than just a “process” or league-wide statistical rankings.

Hence the reason why Kirk Cousins is not worth $35 million or $30 million or anything more than a slight increase (if even that) from the deal Matthew Stafford received from the Lions.

If he’s willing to sign with the Redskins for the approximate deal that Stafford signed last summer, then the Redskins should proceed.

Stafford signed a five-year, $135 million-dollar extension, with a $50 million signing bonus and $92 million in overall guarantees. His average salary per is $27.0 million. He was/is guaranteed $60.5 million at signing.

Cousins has not had as long of a track record as Stafford and he wasn’t a number one overall pick like Stafford was but both quarterbacks have been unable to purely carry their teams on their respective backs.

Stafford’s Lions were (9-7) this year but didn’t make the playoffs, losing to a bad Bengals team late in the year. Overall, the Lions record with Stafford at the helm is (60-65). Is it fair to judge him purely on that? NO. But a lot of people do. The Lions clearly did not.

They rewarded Stafford with a contract so that they have stability at the most important position and so that they have a fixed cost they can plan around.

The problem is Stafford counts for nearly 20% of the Lions 2018 salary cap (19.86%), year two of the now current six-year deal but technically year one of the five-year extension. suggest a “calculated market value” deal of four years and $107.5 million for Cousins with an average salary of $26.88 million.

I highly doubt the Redskins would pay Cousins a figure that equals 20% of the team’s cap in year one, nor would they really have to. They could have a lower year one cap number as most long-term contracts do and then balloon up down the line as the cap is expected to increase.

I do believe structure is more important ultimately than pure money. Cousins’ camp wants the Redskins to essentially be tied to not wavering from him for more than two years, a key component in the talks.

That is assuming Cousins even wants to sign here, which is highly questionable. Cousins will never say it and agent Mike McCartney will never say it, but they haven’t been happy with the cold shoulder stiff-arm that Bruce Allen has negotiated with. They have that right. Just like the Redskins have that right.

Nobody says you have to get married if you don’t feel it the right thing to do.

While many are discussing what Jay Gruden's not-so supportive words about his quarterback  from Tuesday meant, the reality is this: Cousins is still unsure about the Redskins commitment to him and the Redskins certainly seem unsure of their willingness to do everything it would take to get Kirk to sign on a long-term deal.

The two sides are not capable of negotiating fairly and should probably just go their separate ways. But that’s the rub. The Redskins are barely close enough with Cousins. How could they get closer to being a playoff team without him?

The answer is not Colt McCoy in my eyes. Sorry. I feel bad. He’s done everything right and he is a really nice guy, but I can’t count on McCoy to last and be productive for 16 games. Anybody that thinks this is a good plan is fooling themselves.

Could McCoy to a rookie first-round pick be an option? Of course. It’s probably the best long-term option. However, Jay Gruden and even Bruce Allen may not have a large canvas to paint on. The Redskins must win now. A sense of urgency is officially upon us and I believe, because of that, they will act somewhat desperate.

So how can they act desperate, with a sense of urgency and somewhat smart all at the same time? This answer is the best I can give.

Find someone else to be your starting quarterback. Two names that jump to mind? Andy Dalton and Alex Smith.

Dalton will be 31 next year and of course worked very well with Jay Gruden, his offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. His current cap number calls for a modest $16.3 million in 2018, with two easily affordable and easy to get out of years after that.

Is Dalton the answer to every problem the Redskins have? Of course not. Are you guaranteed anything if you go with Dalton over Cousins or McCoy?? No. However, he is a better plan than McCoy and a rookie, along with being a much better salary cap option in 2018 and possibly beyond.

Is he better than Cousins? No. Even though his record says he is, at (63-44-2).

This would be the most logical solution to the problem, the way I see it. You get a player who is not exactly Cousins but is better than McCoy and one that was drafted and developed by the head coach.

All you need now is for the Bengals to decide to trade him, which they could,  according to Adam Schefter back in early November. A.J. McCarron could be ruled an unrestricted free agent in mid February, which would make the decision for the Bengals harder, but perhaps they choose to go with the more youthful asset.

The Redskins would have to trade something to the Bengals for Dalton, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a high draft pick. It could be a fourth-round selection or a player currently on their roster that the Bengals feel they can use. An offensive lineman?

One more better option than Colt McCoy and/or keeping Kirk Cousins under an unreasonable third franchise-tag? Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Smith is a more expensive trade option at a current cost of $20.6 million under the 2018 Chiefs cap, the final year of his contract. He’s also older than Dalton (34 in ’18) and more athletic than the Bengals quarterback.

Yes, the Chiefs are in the playoffs, but they didn’t draft Patrick Mahomes high in the first round for no reason. They also started him in week 17, so the clock could already be ticking on Smith’s departure.

Smith had a very good 2017 in just about every statistical area and managed a much more creative offense than the Redskins currently employ.

Smith has obviously not lived up to his number one overall pick status but he has mostly flourished in Andy Reid’s creative laboratory.

For those asking why not a free agent? Look, if you can somehow get Drew Brees on a very manageable contract – go right ahead. That’s not happening, however.

Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chad Henne, Drew Stanton, Josh McCown and Mark Sanchez are the other top 2018 free-agent quarterbacks.

Outside of Keenum at the right price …no thanks.

So you see, the Redskins have only one good choice barring a reasonable long-term deal with Cousins, which  probably has a 1% chance of happening, and that’s to trade for Andy Dalton or Alex Smith.

It’s not a home-run, but it’s a line-drive double to the gap. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN