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Kirk Cousins should finally get his long-term payday

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks downfield for an open receiver during the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins on November 24, 2016 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)
(Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)

It won’t come cheap, but what franchise quarterback contracts ever do? Washington Redskins starter Kirk Cousins, who is playing on the franchise tag, has earned a long-term contract from the team that drafted him.

It’s easy to sit back and say ‘you can’t pay Kirk Cousins over $20 million per year’, but the truth is in the modern NFL, it makes sense to lock him up at that rate right now. Jay Gruden’s Redskins can win with Kirk Cousins, they’ve proven that.

He’s had his inconsistencies, but he’s developed into a middle of the pack starter putting together a potential career year at 28 years old. In the past two seasons as the starter, he’s completed 69.2 percent of his passes while averaging over 285 passing yards per game with a 49:18 touchdown to interception ratio.

He finished with a quarterback rating of 101.6 in 2015, leading the Redskins to an NFC East crown. In 2016, he is on a very similar pace with a quarterback rating of 101.4 and with a record of 6-4-1, Washington is right back in the playoff hunt.

The Redskins’ first-round pick, superb red zone threat wide receiver prospect Josh Doctson, has only caught two passes in the two games he’s suited up for this season. While the line in front of him has played well, the quarterback has developed great chemistry with second-year wide receiver Jamison Crowder and all-world tight end Jordan Reed.

In Reed’s first two NFL seasons, he was putting up average tight end production. Each year he finished with 45-50 catches, slightly under 500 yards receiving and only 3 total career touchdowns. His third season, after some clear development but also thanks to Cousins taking over, he reeled in 87 catches for nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s on pace to put up a similar season in 2016.

As for Crowder, his chemistry with Cousins has helped his career get off to a fantastic start. He’s consistently winning on underneath routes and the ball is getting there. In his second NFL season, he’s dominated in the 0-9 yard pass range, hauling in 33 of his 40 targets for nearly 150 receiving yards. He’s caught 29 first downs, which is more than half of his total catches.

One area Cousins has really flourished in is reading and throwing against the blitz. The opposition has blitzed him on 114 drop backs where he’s completed 72 of 110 passing attempts (over 65 percent) for 1,075 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception. He’s also averaging 9.8 yards per passing attempt when blitzed, a very strong number.

The Redskins finally have a very solid offensive foundation in place under Jay Gruden. They have an impressive offensive line, a few young and ascending skill players and most importantly a quarterback they can string together wins with.

Kirk Cousins won’t ever be a top five signal caller in the NFL, and that’s okay. As he inches towards the 30 start mark, he’s developing into an extremely efficient passer who is understanding how to maximize his opportunities.

The Redskins were fortunate enough to not have to commit long-term dollars to Cousins after a breakout 2015 season. While they can franchise tag him again for the 2017 season, they should lock him up to an extension now. With the salary cap significantly increasing each year, they can lock him in at a number that won’t completely handicap their future. At 28 years old he is in the prime of his career and with Jay Gruden leading the way in Washington, Cousins should be the long-term answer at quarterback.

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