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Need to Know: Should the Redskins be confident that Cousins can keep it up?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins be confident that Cousins can keep it up?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 18, 37 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Question of the day

We’re flipping into offseason mode with Need to Know. At least a few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from the Real Redskins Facebook page.

First of all, it should be stated that there is never any guarantee that a player will perform well after he signs a big-money contract. Some players live up to them, some don’t and past performance does not guarantee future results.

That said, let’s look at some single-season performances of the three quarterbacks that you mentioned and compare them to Cousins in 2015. The seasons for Cassel (playing for the Patriots) and Kolb (Eagles) are the ones right before they got their big contract extensions. Foles’ (Eagles) numbers are from two years prior to his extension since that season was the basis for the contract the Rams ended up giving him.

It’s pretty easy to see that Cassel, who got a who got a six-year, $60 million contract with $28 million guaranteed from the Chiefs after the Patriots tagged and traded him, and Kolb, who got $64 million over five years with $21 million guaranteed after being dealt to the Cardinals, did not have seasons as good as Cousins’ 2015 prior to their paydays. Neither performed as well as Cousins did any any of the major statistical categories. Neither had, in Tim's words, a "great" season.

(I should note here that the salary cap has grown from $116 million when Cassel signed his contract to in excess of $150 million this year. Comparing what Cassel and Kolb got to what Cousins is likely to earn is not an apples to apples comparison. The 30 percent growth in the cap means that Cousins will get more than did Kolb and Cassel)

It appears that the Chiefs fell for the myth that win-loss records should be assigned to the quarterback. Sure the Pats were 11-5 with Cassel filling in for an injured Tom Brady. But his numbers were barely better than pedestrian even though he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker as targets. The Patriots went 11-5 more due to a top-10 defense, a top-five rushing game, and a coach named Belichick than they did because of Cassel's performance in 2008. (full career stats here).

How did Kolb earn his extension? I have no idea. You can look at his full career stats here. I guess it was just a matter of supply and demand or someone on the Cardinals thinking he saw great potential because he certainly did nothing in 2010 or prior to that to deserve a big payday.

Foles is a slightly different case. He did get paid on the basis of a very good season in 2013, his second year in the league. He found himself behind center in Chip Kelly’s very quarterback friendly offense that was like nothing the league had ever seen. Foles missed half of 2014 with a broken collarbone and got an extension (2 years, $24.5 million) from the Rams last summer in apparent attempt to make sure they would be able to keep him around and justify giving up on 2010 No. 1 pick Sam Bradford.

So Gruden and the Redskins organization have reason to be confident that Cousins will not get a big deal and then fade to mediocrity like Kolb and Cassel did (well, Kolb didn't really fade, he started and stayed mediocre). They aren’t certain because you can’t be certain. But given that it’s a gamble, Cousins is a pretty good bet or at least a better bet the Kolb and Cassel were.

Should Foles serve as a cautionary tale? Perhaps, but he had the advantage of Kelly’s very different brand of offense and LeSean McCoy leading the league’s No. 1 rushing attack. Cousins was working in Gruden’s West Coast style offense, which has been around in various forms for decades, and a running game that was 20th in yards gained and disappeared for weeks at a time. It is reasonable to assume that Cousins had a tougher road to hoe in 2015 than did Foles in 2013 and that his numbers were more of a true reflection of his abilities.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game eight days ago. It will be about 237 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 37; NFL free agency starts 52; 2016 NFL draft 101

In case you missed it

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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Quarterback

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Quarterback

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts on Thursday. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

This series started on defense and you can see all those posts here. On offense we’ve put the wide receivers, running backs, offensive line, and tight ends, under the microscope. Today the focus turns to quarterback.

2016 final game starter: Kirk Cousins

Has started all 32 games in two seasons since he was named the starter. Cousins played every offensive snap last year.

Departures: None

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

Projected 2017 starter: Cousins

Trade talk that was all over the place in February and early March is all but gone. It appears that Cousins will be the starter for 2017. Beyond that it’s anyone’s guess.

2017 reserves: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld

For a while in 2014, McCoy was ahead of Cousins on Jay Gruden’s depth chart, starting three games over a healthy Cousins. McCoy is under contract through 2018 and it will be interesting to see if he gets another shot at starting if Cousins leaves as a free agent. But for 2017 McCoy will continue his role as an insurance policy.

Sudfeld will find out a lot more about his future in burgundy and gold in the next several days. Former general manager Scot McCloughan was very high on Sudfeld’s potential as a future starter. If others in the building were as convinced as McCloughan was they likely will bypass the position in the draft. Taking a QB, especially somewhere in rounds three or four, would be a sign that they don’t like Sudfeld nearly as much as McCloughan did.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often  

Where can the quarterback position find improvement?

Cousins had another big statistical year, breaking his own team record by passing for nearly 5,000 yards. But he can improve in the red zone, where his completion rate plummeted to 47.5 percent after completing 64.1 percent in 2015. Cousins also saw his third-down completion percentage drop from 69.2 percent in 2015 to 61 percent last year. Not surprisingly, the offense struggled in both areas.   

Locks and bubble players

If no quarterback is drafted all three are locks. If one is taken, Sudfeld should start looking at how he can break his lease.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: JP & Tandler break down Redskins draft targets, and players to avoid

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