Important Contract Decisions for the Redskins: Kirk CousinsPosted on July 17, 2014 by Bryan Frantz
Kirk Cousins is probably not the contract that the Redskins front office is sweating over most, but don't scoff at the backup quarterback's importance to the team.
The unfortunate predicament of a backup is that your best chance to prove yourself will likely come as a direct result of something bad happening to your teammate. As Redskins fans know, when Cousins is in the game, something is going horribly wrong. Given Robert Griffin III's history of taking hard hits and sustaining injuries, it's crucial to have a solid Plan B lined up.
Cousins has had a number of moments where he's looked like a legitimate starter in this league, albeit mixed in with some less impressive showings. If Brandon Weeden and Mark Sanchez were deemed worthy of a starting position, certainly a player who could pull out a performance like this one deserves a shot.
If RGIII goes down, whether it be for a game or for a season, the Redskins need to have somebody who can step in and keep the team afloat. Cousins had a few issues last season, but so did the rest of the team. Plus, Cousins was playing with a Washington team that was both injured and resting players, as there was nothing left to fight for. It's hardly fair to judge his performance based off his appearances last year.
It's unlikely that the Michigan State product will ever be a star in this league, though I genuinely believe he can be a starter for a playoff team. By that, I mean Cousins could, in the right situation, project to the second or third tier of NFL quarterbacks. More than likely, he'll end up as a Matt Flynn or Kyle Orton level player, but I could also see him elevating to the likes of Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler or Philip Rivers.
Not that I'd like my odds of building a contender around Tony Romo or Jay Cutler, but I think you could do a whole lot worse.
But that's his upside. In the NFL, a lot of things have to go your way before you can make your mark. This year could be the year that a lot of things go Kirk Cousins' way.
If, knock on wood, Griffin goes down late in the season with the Redskins in playoff contention, Cousins could be faced with a golden ticket. If you have to jump into a game at a moment's notice after riding the bench all season, wouldn't you like to have Alfred Morris to hand the ball to and Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed to throw it to? Those are guys that could really make you look good, especially in a small sample size. Remember what Flynn got based off one game?
Teams that need quarterbacks are often desperate and willing to make drastic decisions, and the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans are all facing iffy quarterback situations for the coming future. Also, teams with aging stars such as the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints could be looking to bring in a promising young quarterback to learn under the incumbent.
So if Cousins gets, and seizes, the opportunity for playing time this season, he could cash in to a huge degree. There is never a shortage of teams looking for a quality starting quarterback, so one or two good showings and Cousins could suddenly become a coveted asset.
But while all these other teams could be interested, that ability to step in when needed is incredibly valuable to the Redskins, and it's why Mike Shanahan drafted a second quarterback in 2012. When you have a starter that takes a lot of hits (like Griffin or Michael Vick), suddenly the backup position becomes a lot more valuable.
For example, Andrew Luck has played 32 out of 32 regular-season games since being drafted a few minutes before RGIII, and the Colts' backup QBs have a total of 12 pass attempts in that time. On the other hand, RGIII has played 28 of 32 regular-season games and his backup (Cousins) has thrown 203 passes.
That means the Redskins should be willing to spend a little extra to ensure that they've got a quality player listed at No. 2 on the depth chart. If Cousins gets forced into action sometime in the next two seasons (more than likely the case), and is able to keep the offense producing, Washington needs to do what it takes to convince him to stay.
This won't be easy, as Cousins wants to start and teams are going to be willing to pay him starting money, but if the Skins can keep him here, fans would breathe a huge sigh of relief. I know I'm comfortable if Cousins has to come in for a drive if Griffin takes a hard shot, or if Griffin sprains an ankle and has to miss some time, I still think Washington can stay competitive.
That's all you can ask for from a backup quarterback.
Come talk Redskins with me on Twitter: @BFrantz202