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Kirk Cousins presents Redskins with a very difficult dilemma

There are a lot of good things being built in Washington right now. With the football team that is, not necessarily the government. The Redskins entered this season with a bevy of offensive weapons, but  two major problems: They couldn’t run the football or stop the run.

Big strides have been made to improve on the former and minor strides have been made to improve on the latter.

Washington would be wise to beef up the defensive line this offseason and its inside linebackers have played better than expected. Plus, Sua Cravens is in the picture and should only get better on the second level while the Redskins look pretty set at outside linebacker overall. So, concentrating on improving the defensive line should be one of Washington’s top offseason goals.

But let’s focus more on the offense where the decisions are much more difficult. This, of course, is especially true at the quarterback position, as Washington is on the verge of a potential franchise altering decision concerning Kirk Cousins.

As mentioned above, the pieces are starting to fall into place around Cousins, which absolutely must happen for this situation to work. Washington’s front office knows this. Jay Gruden, who came from a similar situation in Cincinnati with Andy Dalton, also knows this. Cousins is not a “put the franchise on his shoulders” quarterback. He is much more in the Dalton mold, where he needs a power running game behind a big strong offensive line and top tier receivers to throw to.

Maybe the Redskins could use another center or guard and maybe an upgrade at running back would be smart, especially with a very running back-rich draft class on the horizon. But overall, the pieces are in place around Cousins in Washington.

Cousins is currently playing on the franchise tag and is making big money now by doing so. That tag expires after the season though.

Washington really has three options:

1. Let Cousins walk and go find someone else.

2. Franchise him again and delay the decision while also paying him big money for the 2017 season.

3. Sign Cousins to a long-term deal that is surely going to be more expensive than what Cousins truly deserves, but it will also lock him in as the Redskins’ starter for at least the next few seasons.

Now this doesn’t mean that Washington still couldn’t use a high draft pick on a quarterback if they were to execute any of these options, but that would be an unlikely move if the Redskins were to pick option three.

Does Cousins’ play warrant big money and a long-term deal? No and it isn’t like there is an immense amount of upside and untapped potential with the player either. Certainl,y he has cut down on the poor decisions and turnovers and is improving without question, but still, it isn’t like he is going to turn into a Top 10 type of NFL quarterback. He is well liked, respected and a very hard worker, but in many ways, Cousins is what he is. But then again, you could do much worse. Allowing an adequate starting quarterback to depart isn’t easy to condone.

After beginning the season very poorly, Cousins is certainly playing better now. But his career is almost a series of short stints, good and bad, of small sample sizes.

Is he the unbelievably turnover prone quarterback who fought for playing time before the 2015 season as well as early on last year? Is he the “You like that!” guy who lit up the scoreboard during the second half of last season? Is he the tentative player making a lot of money from the first two games of this season? Or is he the improving, solid quarterback whois playing within the system like we have seen for the past four weeks or so?

 

The “You like that!” guy might have saved your fantasy team, but Cousins got away with a lot of passes during that stretch that he shouldn’t have attempted. And, maybe more importantly, he did by far his best work as a professional against just a terrible stretch of defenses late in 2015. Don’t be surprised if the second half of last year is the best stretch statistically of his career.

While his turnovers are going down, he is never going to be an Alex Smith-like game manager and Cousins has already thrown six interceptions this year. And unfortunately, because of limited tools, he is never going to be a big-armed downfield passer who fits passes into tight windows and makes “Wow” throws.

What does that leave?

Sticking with the political theme, it leaves a very difficult decision as to who should be in charge in Washington. And there might not be a correct answer, as none of the options are overly appealing.

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