Will the Redskins trade Kirk Cousins? Should they?

Washington Redskins backup QB Kirk Cousins has been the subject of trade rumors almost as soon as the team took in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Those rumors heated up when he won Rookie of the Week honors leading the Redskins to a road win over the Cleveland Browns in 2012, but quieted down after the knee injury suffered by Robert Griffin III in the team’s home playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The trade talk got hot again in December after former Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan‘s baffling decision to bench RG3 in favor of Cousins for the final three games of the season. The Redskins didn’t win any of those games and Cousins looked worse in each successive game, leading many, including myself, to conclude that if Shanahan’s purpose was to boost Cousins’ trade value — and I don’t think that’s what Shanny was doing — the ploy failed.

However, when former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was hired by the Cleveland Browns to run their offense, trade talk warmed up yet again. And certainly we know Cousins is very willing to be traded.

However, the Browns have Brian Hoyer, who looked good in very limited action last season before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. [He should be healed before the 2014 preseason.] Cleveland also holds the fourth overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and will be looking very closely at the top college quarterbacks.


Of course, there is one way a Cousins-to-Cleveland trade can still happen. What if the Browns take a quarterback high in the draft, such as Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, and want a backup QB experienced with the Kyle Shanahan system? I’ll let Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com take it from there:

Where would that leave Hoyer, who established himself as a bona fide starter last season? His old New England offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, now the Texans head coach, really likes him. What if O’Brien, who’s taking over a 2-14 team, makes the Browns an offer they can’t refuse? The Texans, who’s starter Matt Schaub had the worst season of his 10-year career, have the No. 1 overall pick and are poised to draft a quarterback. But what if O’Brien makes a pitch for Tom Brady‘s understudy?

If the Browns decide to part with Hoyer, perhaps they’d want to acquire a quarterback such as Cousins who’s familiar with Shanahan’s system. Trades can’t be executed until March 11, but Browns CEO Joe Banner has already established himself as an aggressive dealmaker.

I don’t see this happening, but it is, of course, still possible. And there could be other destinations for Cousins; it’s not like Cleveland is the only possible trading partner for the Redskins. However, that also begs the question: Even if the Redskins can trade Kirk Cousins, should they?

As with many things in life, the answer is, it depends. If Washington can pry a second round pick from some team, they should make the deal, whether that pick is a high second or a lower one. However, anything less than that would probably be a mistake. The Redskins are very unlikely to bring Rex Grossman back in 2014 — look for him in Cleveland or Houston or anywhere but D.C. — so they will need an experienced backup behind RG3. If Cousins is gone, who would that experienced backup be? Maybe Chad Henne or Josh Freeman or Shaun Hill. All probably acceptable, of course, but also probably not as good as Kirk Cousins, who is already in house. Would swapping out Cousins for Freeman or Henne or Hill be acceptable? Yes, if the price is right. By which I mean that second round pick.

Anything less than that and the Redskins would do well to hang on to Cousins for another season and hope to get more for him after a strong 2014 preseason.