- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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It’s not big news that Kirk Cousins would like to go somewhere he can at least compete for a starting job. But here’s the deal: You have to wonder why that story, by ESPN's Adam Schefter, came out now. There’s a reason: This is about Cousins being proactive in trying to push for a trade and reminding teams that, yes, he would welcome a move. It's not earth-shattering news, but that wasn't the intention, I'm guessing, of the story's genesis. He is not demanding a trade, nor is that his style. But he definitely understands that Jay Gruden was brought to the Redskins in part to help Robert Griffin III reach a certain level. Yes, I had heard that the idea was told to Cousins; I don’t think that’s news. By the way, any competitive person should want to be in a position to start. No one wants to stay too long in a place where, if things go right for the starter, you might never get that opportunity. That’s why, from what I understand, the notion of welcoming a trade was relayed to the Redskins before Gruden was hired.
Based on previous conversations I’ve had with him, Cousins understands his situation rather well. That’s why he would not demand a trade. He has little leverage because he just hasn’t played enough, so demanding a trade would not be a good look for a guy who has four career starts and could lead to a burned bridge. Besides, if he demanded a trade, how would fans react? Even if they understood, it would not be wise. Here’s something Cousins once told me of being in Washington: “I love the fan base, and I love where I live. The problem is that I’m here to build a great career, and I can only do that so much in D.C.” Because Griffin starts, of course.
Even in those prior conversations, Cousins was well aware that some teams would not be inclined to give up enough to pry him from the Redskins. I’m guessing his thoughts on the matter have not changed. One conversation we had centered on what his value was. Cousins understood that teams would compare their pre-draft thoughts on him to what they’ve seen of him in his first two years. Did their pre-draft grade match up with what he’s shown? If not, where has his performance been better -- or worse? It also will be compared against the current draft class. At one point it looked like this might be a deep group of quarterbacks. Not anymore.
Some teams -- not all -- would definitely want to see more than four starts or eight games played before giving up, say, a second-round draft pick for Cousins. A first-rounder at this point would be highly unlikely. Although the Cleveland Browns are about to name Kyle Shanahan offensive coordinator and Shanahan liked Cousins, the Browns are said to be targeting a quarterback with their first pick. They also have Brian Hoyer (coming off an ACL injury, but if he recovers on time, he reportedly should be fine by the spring), whom the front office reportedly likes. Hoyer is not Aaron Rodgers, but he played well when given the chance this past season. If he’ll be ready and if the Browns are still set on selecting a quarterback, it’s tough to see Cleveland doing something. But this was an interesting column the Browns’ general manager, Mike Lombardi, wrote about Shanahan/Cousins. Going back to the picks, if another team does want Cousins, what would offset some of the lack of game action will be the opinion of Mike Shanahan, who saw the quarterback's progression in practice. How much that would help I don’t know, but it would be a factor, I’m sure.
If I’m the Redskins, I don’t trade him -- and certainly not for anything less than a second-round pick. Although Cousins clearly wants to go somewhere to start, he’s also the sort of guy who would not be a problem if he does return. He’s a perfect backup for Griffin, and has been, for that reason. And if Griffin somehow is bothered by the competition, that’s a bigger issue. If Cousins returns, he will work hard, provide good insurance in case Griffin either struggles or doesn’t stay healthy. That’s who he is and who he has been. But he also will continue to show that he’ll advocate for himself, as the trade story suggests.