WASHINGTON — With Kirk Cousins back at the top of his game midway through the season, that old, familiar conversation is back in the spotlight as the Redskins head into the bye week.
Should the Redskins re-sign Cousins to a long-term contract?
Cousins, 28, has rebounded from a shaky first two games — losses to the Steelers and Cowboys to open the season — and has averaged nearly 300 passing yards per game, with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, over the Redskins’ past six contests.
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He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season in leading the Redskins to a 4-3-1 record. With a .563 win percentage, the Redskins, at the same point in the season, are actually outpacing their 2015 division championship win production (.428) in an improved NFC East this year, despite being in last place.
His interception rate of 2.2 percent now closely resembles the 2 percent interception rate he posted over the duration of his breakout 2015 season. His touchdown rate — 3.7 percent — is down 1.6 percent from last season. His yards per pass attempt (7.6) and yards per completion (11.4) are both fairly comparable to last season’s output, with his yards per attempt down a tick and his yards per catch slightly up.
After setting a franchise record with 4,166 passing yards last year, Cousins, with 2,454 passing yards, is in line to blow his previous yard total out of the water, as he’s on pace to pass for 4,908 yards. Should he stick to his current pace of 306.75 passing yards per game, and have another game or two like he did in London, when he passed for 458 yards in a tying effort against the Bengals, Cousins would eclipse 5,000 yards.
The list of quarterbacks to reach that mark in the history of the NFL is short: it’s Matthew Stafford, Dan Marino, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Brees has done it four times; the rest have done it once.
The Redskins, with Cousins playing on the franchise tag, could not begin to negotiate a new deal until the completion of this current season. They would, at that point, also have the option to franchise tag Cousins again, which would pay somewhere in the realm of $24 million.
The Sports Junkies discussed with some of their callers Monday whether the Redskins should sign Cousins long-term.
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Jaime in Manassas, a frequent caller into the program, got the conversation lit.
“I wouldn’t give him $20 million a year,” he said. “I don’t know what the market will be, and I hope the teams have learned the lessons of past big contracts that have been a mistake, but I think he’s not quite there; he’s a top-15 quarterback with potential to be a top-10, but we have to hold on that renewal for $20 million a year.”
“Well, they might wait till the offseason, but it’s the going rate,” Junkies co-host John-Paul Flaim said. “That’s the problem, it’s the going rate.”
“Why would you hold off?” Junkies co-host Jason Bishop asked. “And first off all, those other quarterbacks that you mentioned, he’s better than all of them, and some of those guys are making $100 million. He’s better than [Ryan] Tannehill, he’s better than [Colin] Kaepernick — who’s the other guy I brought up? — he’s better than all those guys. You have to sign him to a long-term deal, and he’s not going to accept $15 million.”
“Unless you just franchise him again,” Flaim said.
“You could do that,” Bishop said. “All right, that’s 24 million bucks. But then he’s gonna have another next year like he’s gonna have this year and you’re gonna be in the same situation. You’re gonna have to eventually pay the guy, and he’s not going to accept $15 million. Look. You’re gonna have to pay $20- to $22 million per year for this guy, and you might as well do it. You might as well do it now.”
With regard to where Cousins fits among other top NFL quarterbacks, The Junkies also raised the point that, within a few years, Cousins could reach top-10 status simply by virtue of some of the older elite quarterbacks, like Tony Romo, Brady and Brees, retiring.
“We’re in a bad spot, man, but you can’t give him $22-, $23 million, because what you’re doing is, you’re going to hamper the ability to be able to put a competitive team around him,” another caller, Reggie in D.C., suggested. “You’re gonna be like Indy.”
“But Reggie, you know football, dude,” Bishop said. “You have to pay your quarterback. You have to pay him. You can’t let him go somewhere. You know how quickly he’d be snatched up on the open market?”
“Or you can build up the team and hope you have a Trevor Siemian situation,” Flaim offered.
“Trevor Siemian sucks! Oh my god,” Bishop said.
“But you have to sign the right quarterback. Not just any quarterback, the right quarterback,” Reggie insisted. “And right now, can you say that Kirk Cousins is the right quarterback? Right now?”
“Yes. He is. He is. You’ve got to pay him! I’m sorry,” Bishop said. “You can’t let him walk and go somewhere else, and draft a guy and then you’re back to square one. You’re not going to sign anybody on the open market and good quarterbacks are not free agents. You’ve got to pay the quarterback.”