President Donald J. Trump’s State of the Union Address wasn’t the only big news in Washington Tuesday night.
While the address was taking place, the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to trade quarterback Alex Smith to Washington, meaning Kirk Cousins’ career with the Redskins is over.
The Redskins sent a third-round draft pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller to Kansas City in exchange for Smith. The deal was first reported by the Kansas City Star.
Cousins was Washington’s starter the last three years, and did a solid job, but he wanted to be paid like a superstar, and the Redskins’ brass wasn’t going there.
The highest paid quarterback in the league is Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, who makes $27 million-a-year.
The Redskins wouldn’t go higher than the $23 million-a-year range, which is what they are paying Smith, who got a new four-year deal which averages $23.5 million-a-year.
Cousins and Smith are considered similar talents, cerebral game-managers who generally make good decisions with the football. Last year, Cousins threw 27 touchdowns and Smith tossed 26. However, Smith threw just six interceptions, and Cousins had 13.
The last two years, the Redskins and Cousins couldn’t agree to a long-term deal, so the quarterback played under one-year franchise tags. The Redskins didn’t want to do that again, because that would have cost them $34 million for one season, so they decided to trade for Smith.
The Chiefs were willing to trade Smith because they love their second-year signal-caller Patrick Mahomes, a rocket-armed quarterback from Texas Tech, they picked in the first-round last year.
Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan (who arrived with the team after Cousins was picked in 2012), can understand why Washington didn’t want to make Cousins the highest paid quarterback in football.
“He’s a good player,” McCloughan told Denver radio station 104.3 The Fan. “Is he special? I don’t see special.”
McCloughan is considered one the top talent-evaluators in football. He’s not with a team now due to personal issues, not his evaluation ability.
So why doesn’t McCloughan think Cousins is “special?”
“Jay Gruden does a great job play-calling,” McCloughan said. “[Former Washington offensive coordinator-turned-Rams coach] Sean McVay did a great job play-calling to put him in positions to be successful. He’s talented. Talent is good at quarterback in the NFL. He’s won games. I know his record overall is not over .500. I know he has not won a playoff game. But he’s competitive. He works his tail off. He’s so methodical. Every day he has planned out. He’s always in the building; he’s always watching tape; he’s always talking to coaches; he was talking to me. From the standpoint of the tangibles, they’re excellent. You just need to have some talent around him because you don’t want him to be throwing the ball 35 to 40 times to win the game. You want to have a running game, have a good defense, good [special] teams, and then let him do what he does.”
In other words, if you are going to pay a quarterback $27-30 million a year, you want him to be able to put the team on his back, like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, even when other parts of the team are struggling, and still win games.
Clearly McCloughan doesn’t think Cousins can do that.
And neither do the Redskins.
So that is why they are moving on, and going with Smith, who they think is a little better than Cousins, and isn’t asking for as much money. Also, by saving perhaps $4-5 million-a-year going from Cousins to Smith, the Redskins will be able to sign more free agents at other positions.
But Cousins is going to get paid what he wants because so many NFL teams are in dire need of a quarterback.
Potential free agent suitors for Cousins could include the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns.
Once we see how Cousins plays with his next team, getting paid superstar money, we will find out if the Redskins did the right thing moving on from him.