Redskins head coach Jay Gruden installed Kirk Cousins at starting quarterback before the 2015 season. It was unpopular with some at the time, but in the two subsequent seasons, the move to bench Robert Griffin III for Cousins looks good, and the results have been strong enough to make both men wildly rich.
Gruden landed a two-year contract extension over the weekend, which extends his deal with the Redskins through 2020. His original deal pays him more than $4 million per season, and while terms of the extension have not been released, there is zero reason to expect Gruden will take a pay cut.
Cousins played the 2015 season on the last year of his rookie deal, and made just $660,000. While that's a lot of money for regular folks, for NFL quarterbacks, it's peanuts. In 2016, playing on the franchise tag, Cousins made nearly $20 million. This season, Cousins could make $24 million playing on another franchise tag, and if he signs a multi-year deal, that money will increase exponentially.
Considering their mutual success, a 17-14-1 record over the last two seasons to go with a 2015 NFC East title, it's easy to assume that Gruden's extension could be helpful as the Redskins work to secure Cousins to a long-term contract.
It even makes sense. Knowing that the coach and offensive system that's been crucial to his success are locked in place for the 'Skins, Cousins could feel increased security in commiting to a future with Washington.
Unless it doesn't.
Think about this from a different angle: If the Redskins really are considering trading Cousins, as multiple reports have suggested, locking up their coach for the next phase is a must.
"The Redskins do believe they can win in the short term with McCoy, and there’s a feeling that it’d be better to just resolve the Cousins situation now—whether it’s giving him a new deal or trading him—and not setting up to be in this position again in spring 2018."
In addition to the threat of losing Cousins, the Redskins stand to lose one or both of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon. Both were 1,000 yard receivers for Washington in 2016, and losing either would be a blow for the offense.
For Gruden, knowing that losing one or both of his top wideouts, not to mention a possible Cousins trade, remains on the horizon, a contract extension seems downright neccesary. If the 'Skins go into 2017 with McCoy at QB and without Jackson and/or Garçon, it seems the team could take a step back from the progress of the last two years. And a step back, in the fourth year of a five-year deal, likely would mean saying goodbye to the coach.
Instead, Gruden gets an extension. In turn, hypothetically, he knows he has the security to withstand an offensive shift at quarterback.
If a situation arises where the Redskins cannot get a deal done with Cousins, trading him this offseason makes sense. Get something now before next offseason when the team would get nothing.
Gruden might not want the Redskins to trade Cousins, at all, but it would be very hard for Gruden to support a trade going into the 4th year of a 5-year deal. In the 4th year of a 7-year deal, however, things look quite different.
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