The Best Landing Spot for Kirk Cousins


Two seasons ago, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins posted a completion percentage of 69.8, threw for 4,166 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. At that point, the Redskins brass could have signed him long-term for a reasonable $20-21 million per year. However, the team applied the franchise tag to Cousins to make the quarterback prove he could perform for more than one season. In 2016, Cousins was selected to the Pro Bowl, with a completion percentage of 67.0, a franchise record 4,917 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Most teams apply the franchise tag on a player, and if that player shows he can be consistently productive, they find a way to give him a long-term contract. The Redskins franchised tagged Cousins for a second consecutive season, befuddling Redskins fans and NFL fans alike. Cousins bet on himself again, collecting almost $24 million, one year after getting nearly $20 million, as a franchise tagged player.

Still, “Captain Kirk” balled out, with a completion percentage of 64.3, 4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. These stats were a tremendous feat, considering the ‘Skins let wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon go in free agency, before the 2017 campaign. The ball has always been in the Redskins court. Cousins has done his part; he has played like a franchise quarterback. The Redskins hierarchy put themselves in the current situation. A third franchise tag would cost the team $34.5 million. Instead, on Tuesday, the team traded a third-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft and cornerback Kendall Fuller to the Kansas City Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is a good quarterback. Normally, this would be a solid move. However, if the ‘Skins had played it smart, they could have had Cousins signed long-term, and have kept the pick and Fuller. Kirk has been consistent in his statements that it’s about more than the money. He wanted to create roots somewhere, with his wife Julie and their son, Cooper. He will do that and have job security as well; it will just be in a different city than Washington D.C. Cousins is the top free agent on the market, a proven franchise quarterback entering his prime, looking to play for a contender. There are several suitors for Kirk Cousins, but two top candidates should be preferred spots for Cousins.

The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals are the best landing spots for Cousins. While the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns need a quarterback, they are no match for the Broncos or Cardinals. Buffalo has the number 21 and 22 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft in April. They acquired the 22nd pick from the Chiefs when they went up in last year’s draft to get Patrick Mahomes. The Bills have running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Charles Clay. It’s McCoy and fullback Patrick DiMarco that make their rushing attack successful. According to Football Outsiders, the Bills offensive line ranks 27th in run blocking and 31st in pass protection. These numbers are based on adjusted line yards, which takes into account all running back carries, noting role the offensive line plays in each carry. The numbers are adjusted for down, distance, situation, and opponent. The pass protection numbers are based on Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. The number indicates sacks and intentional grounding penalties per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent. On top of that, the Bills rank 20th in pass defense and 29th in rush defense, according to ESPN. The Jets rank 29th in adjusted line yards and 27th in adjusted sack rate. They are 21st in passing defense and 24th in rushing defense. The Jets have the number 6 pick and could draft a young quarterback in that spot. The Jacksonville Jaguars would have been a prime choice, but they’re looking to stay with quarterback Blake Bortles. It’s important to note that Cousins is going to a team. Even though he plays the quarterback position, the strengths and weaknesses of all areas of the team will determine not only Cousins’ success but the team’s success as well.

O-Line Stats: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol

This leaves the two most talented rosters: the Broncos and the Cardinals. Denver has the 5th pick in the draft. They could take a quarterback, but Cousins could fill that need. If President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway naps Cousins, he can turn his attention to left guard or right tackle in the draft. With running back C.J. Anderson and fullback Andy Janovich, the Broncos can run the ball, allowing Cousins to emphasize one of his strengths: the play-action pass. Opponents will not be able to crowd the box against the Broncos due to wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Of all of Cousins’ options, Denver boasts the best wideouts. With Garett Bolles, Matt Paradis and Ron Leary solidifying the left tackle, center and right guard positions respectively, Denver has three-fifths of their offensive line set up. The Broncos rank 9th in adjusted line yards and 29th in adjusted sack rate. That last stat is a prime reason why the team will be looking for pass blocking offensive linemen in the draft. The biggest factor to lure Cousins to the Mile-High City is their fierce defense. The Broncos are number 3 in total defense (yards allowed), number 4 in passing defense and number 5 in rushing defense. With key players like linebacker Von Miller and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., Denver’s defense is an intimidating unit. This is the best landing spot for Kirk.

If Cousins doesn’t choose Denver, the desert is an alluring destination. The Cardinals have the best running back Kirk can play within David Johnson. He’s arguably the best running back in the NFL. Cousins can throw to one of the most excellent receivers of all-time in Larry Fitzgerald. John Brown, Jaron Brown and speedster J.J. Nelson round out the receiving core. Ricky Seals-Jones could be an up-and-coming tight end in the league. The Cardinals have a healthy, fast defense that flies around and makes plays. Add in the fact that former Carolina Panthers Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks was just hired as the Cardinals head coach, and the Cardinals will bring the heat. Arizona ranks 6th in total defense, 14th in passing defense and 6th in rushing defense. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is one of the best at his position in the league and Tyrann “the honey badger” Mathieu is a beast at safety. With needs at offensive line and wide receiver, it would behoove the Cards to grab Cousins in free agency and shore up their quarterback spot after the retirement of signal-caller Carson Palmer.

It will be fun to see where Cousins lands. No matter where he signs, one thing is for sure. Kirk bet on himself, it was the right decision, and he’s about to cash in.

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Published on 2/3/18 at 5:28 PM EST. Creidt: ESPN, azcardinals.com, denverbroncos.com, footballoutsiders.com, pro-football-reference.com.
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