The Washington Redskins have their starting quarterback under contract for this season. Beyond that, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding Kirk Cousins‘ future in Washington. That’s why the Redskins must have backup plans.
They could always opt to trade him later this spring. They have told him they won’t do so, but sometimes thinking changes when reality sets in. Or Cousins could play out this season and, barring a third use of the franchise tag, hit the open market next offseason.
Either way, the Redskins need alternatives. Here’s a look at their current options:
Pro: He knows the offense well and has earned the trust of the coaching staff. If not for a neck injury late in 2014, he would have ended the season as the starter. McCoy plays with a moxie that coach Jay Gruden appreciates. It gives McCoy the ability to lead and also to extend plays when nothing is available. His knowledge of the offense helps compensate for shortcomings, allowing him to throw with anticipation. At times in training camp practices, for example, he’ll throw an out route and the ball will arrive just as the receiver turns around — and the defensive back has no shot. McCoy has worked for several offseasons with Tom House, a former major league pitcher. That work, focusing on resistance bands, medicine balls and dumbbells, has “significantly helped me as far as throwing the ball,” McCoy said. It also helped fully heal the shoulder injury he suffered in college.
Con: He hasn’t shown for a full season what he can do. He started 13 games in his second season, throwing 14 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions for Cleveland. He’s viewed by most as a solid backup. Questions persist about his arm strength and durability. Those doubts will remain until he gets another chance to sink or swim. McCoy said his arm is stronger, thanks to his work with House. His ability to extend plays also leads to more hits. In 2014, for example, McCoy was sacked 17 times in 128 pass attempts while Cousins that same year was sacked eight times in 204. It will lead to some good plays; it also will lead to more potential injuries for someone who is 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. Teammates say McCoy has more of a gunslinger mentality than Cousins, which can lead to big plays, both good and bad.
Pro: Former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan liked what he had in Sudfeld, a former sixth-round pick. Word spread that he could develop into a starter after a year or two. That might be a bit optimistic, but such was McCloughan’s faith in Sudfeld. He’s considered a hard worker — a film junkie, always a good description for a quarterback — and is smart. Those traits stood out to the coaches. Sudfeld has a good arm, so that won’t be an issue. And his 6-6 height allows him to play from the pocket and see over the rush. He has a good personality, allowing him to develop relationships with many.
Con: Coaches felt he played better in preseason games last summer than he did in practice; that was noticeable to most who watched the practices in Richmond. As a late-round pick, he’s clearly more of a developmental player, so struggles in practice weren’t surprising. At this point, there’s hope he can develop into a starter, but that’s different than expecting him to do so. Sudfeld isn’t a scrambler, so he must show coaches he has the upper-body suddenness to make the sort of quick-twitch throws necessary to win. That will be a key part of his development this summer.
Draft a quarterback
If the Redskins view Cousins as unlikely to sign a long-term extension, they could opt to draft someone in the upper rounds this spring. The top names are Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes II. During a conference call, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay focused on three quarterbacks as possibilities beyond those most mentioned: Nathan Peterman, Joshua Dobbs (he shares the same agent as Cousins) and Davis Webb.
Pro: The Redskins would get Cousins’ successor, so if this indeed is his last year in Washington then the Redskins have the heir apparent already in the system. And if the draft pick is not yet ready, they could roll with McCoy until that happens. Though it’s not considered a great quarterback class, there are traits that make some of these quarterbacks intriguing — and worth developing. Most need time; the Redskins could provide that luxury.
Con: The Redskins like Sudfeld, so drafting another quarterback high would likely lead to his release (unless Cousins is traded). If they feel he’s worth developing, they might as well see how he progresses this summer and then, if needed, draft a quarterback high in 2018. Even in that scenario, with Cousins assumed to be elsewhere, the Redskins could hang on to Sudfeld as a No. 3. Also, if the Redskins drafted a quarterback in the higher rounds this spring, any early struggles by the team — even if it’s not Cousins’ fault — would lead to calls for playing time. That’s not a good reason necessarily to dismiss drafting one. But this situation already is potentially awkward without adding more scenarios.