At this point, a Kirk Cousins trade seems to be inevitable. Despite recording nearly 5,000 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns, the Washington Redskins do not want to give Cousins a long-term extension worth roughly $25 million per year. Franchise quarterbacks are not frequently traded, but if Cousins is dealt, the Houston Texans will certainly be intrigued. The Redskins should send Cousins to Houston for a package of two first-round picks, one second-round selection, and quarterback Brock Osweiler.
The Washington Redskins Should Trade Kirk Cousins to the Houston Texans
In his second full season as the starter, Kirk Cousins took a big step forward. He finished third in the NFL in passing yards (4,917) and 13th in passing touchdowns (25). He also threw 12 interceptions, which is not an elite number, but certainly not embarrassing given his number of passing attempts. He finished sixth in the league in passing attempts, so his passing yardage total might be slightly inflated, but it is safe to say that Cousins is a top 15 quarterback in the league right now. With last season’s performance in mind, Cousins is clearly an above average quarterback who deserves a long-term extension. If the Redskins will not give it to him, the Texans would be glad to.
Why the Trade Makes Sense for the Texans
The Texans are a franchise quarterback away from being a Super Bowl contender. With an elite defense, plenty of weapons on offense, and a solid offensive line, a quarterback like Kirk Cousins would boost the Texans to immediate contender status. Despite incompetent quarterback play, the Texans managed to win the AFC South and compete against the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots for most of their playoff matchup. The price is certainly steep, but the Texans have found the team’s ceiling without a franchise quarterback. Houston can continue to be an above average team without truly competing, or management can pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal to bring in a franchise quarterback and shed one of the worst free agent signings in recent memory.
If Texans fans are worried that Cousins could leave next off-season after one season in Houston, there is no need to be afraid. Even if Cousins refuses to sign a long-term extension immediately, the Texans could use a transition tag for 2018. This would cost $28.78 million in 2018, but it is an emergency option because the franchise tag would cost $34.47 million. The transition tag would also mean that Cousins is free to sign any deal with another team, but the Texans would have the option to match that deal. That being said, Cousins is asking for $25 million per year and the Texans should have no problem paying that amount if management commits two first-round picks and a second-round pick.
Why the Trade Makes Sense for the Redskins
If the Redskins decide to move on from Kirk Cousins, this trade makes more sense than the other trade rumors that have surfaced recently. After glancing briefly at this trade, Brock Osweiler is the immediate red flag. Why would the Redskins want to inherit the massive contract of one of the worst free agent signings in recent memory to lead the team at quarterback? As it turns out, Osweiler does not have much guaranteed money left on his contract after this season. The Redskins would simply be acquiring Osweiler’s contract so that the Texans would be able to afford a long-term extension for Cousins. After one season, the Redskins could release Osweiler and eat the dead cap hit of $6 million in 2018 and $3 million in 2019. Considering the Redskins would not have an expensive quarterback on the roster, this is a small price to pay for the stash of draft picks.
In addition, starting Brock Osweiler at quarterback in 2017 could help the Redskins in the long run. If Washington gets rid of Cousins, tanking the 2017 season would be in the team’s best interest. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and USC quarterback Sam Darnold will almost certainly be available at the top of the 2018 NFL Draft, and these quarterbacks are arguably the best prospects at the position since Andrew Luck. With the probable departures of receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency and a mediocre defense, Osweiler could almost certainly lead the Redskins to the bottom of the NFL standings. One tough season would be a reasonable price to pay for a franchise quarterback and a few premier assets to rebuild a struggling defense.
The Market for Kirk Cousins
Franchise quarterbacks are rarely available in trades because they are rare commodities to begin with, so it is difficult to establish the market for Kirk Cousins. That being said, there are three trades that should illustrate why Kirk Cousins is worth this package of draft picks. In 2009, the Broncos traded Jay Cutler and a fifth-round pick to the Bears for two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and Kyle Orton. In the season before this trade was completed, Cutler passed for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. Last season, Cousins threw for nearly 400 more yards, had the same number of touchdowns, and threw six fewer interceptions. If Cutler was worth two first-round picks and a third-round pick, Cousins should get at least that offer. It is worth noting that the Broncos received the 18th overall selection in the 2009 draft (this selection was already known at the time of the trade) while the Redskins would be receiving the 25th overall selection, so that could be the difference between the third-round pick the Broncos received and the second-round pick I proposed earlier.
In 2012, the Redskins traded three first-round picks (one being a swap) and a second-round pick for the opportunity to select Robert Griffin III. The price was hefty, but Washington felt that a net of two first-round picks and a second-round pick was the price to pay for a franchise quarterback. Since Griffin III was an unproven draft commodity and Cousins posted top ten numbers last season, his market should be at least equal to this trade.
Finally, in the most recent draft, the Rams traded two first-round picks (one being a swap), two second-round picks, and two third-round picks for a fourth-round pick, a sixth-round pick, and the opportunity to select Jared Goff. Goff was the top quarterback in his draft class, but the class was weak at the position and he had plenty of question marks as a prospect coming from a spread offense that rarely huddled. Goff was certainly a less coveted prospect than Robert Griffin III. While this transaction was not quite as large as the one I proposed, Goff was certainly less valuable than an above average quarterback like Kirk Cousins and the Rams selections are at the top of the rounds while the Texans selections are at the bottom of the rounds.
The most appealing trade rumor that is currently circulating regarding Kirk Cousins is the 49ers potential offer of the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. While this high selection would be preferable for a team with an established quarterback, this would not be the best move for the Redskins. The team could possibly invest in one of the quarterbacks in this class to replace Cousins, but that would be a big mistake. None of the quarterbacks in this class are expected to be above average starters in the league and they are light years behind Rosen and Darnold as prospects. Even if the Redskins elect to take one of the top edge rushers or the top safety, the package of picks I proposed would allow Washington to acquire multiple impact players instead of just one. If San Francisco increased the offer for Cousins, this could be a different story, but that seems unlikely at this point.
The Tony Romo rumor is absurd and has been mostly discredited, so I am not going to entertain that thought.
The Last Word
This proposed trade offer is a deal that would make both teams better off. The Redskins seem intent on dealing Kirk Cousins, so the franchise could rebuild the defense and acquire a franchise quarterback in next year’s draft. On the other side, the Texans could acquire the franchise quarterback they have been desperately seeking for years. A quarterback like Kirk Cousins could push a very good Texans team to contender status and bring a Lombardi Trophy to Houston.