The QB Saga in The Nation’s Capital
Welcome back to The B&G Report. If you haven’t checked out the previous “Senior Bowl Wrap Up Offensive Prospects Edition” Post, I urge you to check it out! The Defensive Senior Bowl Prosepect was the next scheduled post, but Skins fans were not prepared for the bomb that was dropped by the Redskins. The Redskins acquired Alex Smith from the KC Chiefs, in return for their 2018 3rd Round Draft pick as well as second year DB Kendall Fuller. As my readers know, I’ve been campaigning for Smith to be acquired for some time now. The thing I didn’t predict however, was the cost to acquire the soon to be 34 year old signal caller. I’m still getting over the initial shock of trading another cornerback in his early ascending years(Champ Bailey traded to DEN ‘04). I’ve had come to grips with the bottom line though, which is they had to make a big move. Without a competent veteran signal caller for a year or two, an inevitable rebuild would be on the horizon for Washington.
Cousins was inevitably hitting Free Agency anyway, which increased the urgency to make a move quickly. Getting another veteran signal caller wasn’t just a priority, it was a necessity! The more I heard fans say that Colt McCoy could play as well as Kirk, I realized how bad the situation really was. With no other QB on the roster, a veteran edition as well as a rookie signal caller needed to be drafted. I heard many fans say, “just wait till Free Agency and grab a bridge QB”. The problem with that line of thought is D.C. has lost its luster, as a landing place for FA’s looking for a big payday. Smith will be in Washington for at least 3 years, with a likely out in the 4th/5th year of his contract in my opinion. We’ll have to wait until March for the contract details though. So this isn’t the short term bridge situation that I anticipated. I definitely underestimated the value of Smith and the interest various teams had in him. I believed he’d be released, but the demand was high for the Chiefs signal caller. Denver reportedly offered KC their troubled veteran CB Aqib Talib and a 2nd/3rd round pick. Cleveland offered multiple picks including their first pick in the second round. Per Adam Schefter;
“At least 5 teams were interested in trading for the Kansas City veteran signal caller”.
The Skins were the only team to offer more than a two year deal, per reports. The Chiefs held Smith in high in regard and wanted him to have input, in regards to what team he’d go to. Also avoiding dealing with Denver, kept Smith out of the division. Adding Fuller to the deal is what the Chiefs really desired, per reports.
So what path are the Redskins on now, as an organization moving forward? Snyder has made his share of mistakes. Although he’s responsible for the teams short comings, fans have to be nieve to think that this team will never improve under his reign. I always here “As long as Danny & Allen are running things the Redskins will not be a winner”. Team Owners and Presidents can only contribute so much, when it comes to a losing culture. Putting a stand up individual, such as Doug Williams as VP of Player Personal was a move towards changing the culture. Most fans including myself, view Bruce Allen as the puppet master over Williams and others. As a fan I’m choosing to have hope, rather than constant despair and hopelessness with the current front office leaders. Adding a veteran signal caller who is coming off another Pro Bowl season, was a move in the right direction. I’ve read fans compare this move to “another McNabb trade scenario”, Smith is not on the decline or dealing with the constant injuries, as McNabb was dealing with in his thirties. In fact Smith looked anything but a player on the decline to me. In the end, this bold move may pay off in both the short and longterm.
That Was Then
Kirk Cousins’s accomplishments in Washington are important to remember, most notably when it comes to realizing what they’re loosing. Breaking down his statistics, franchise records that he broke are irrelevant now. His overall record is all that mattered to Skins fans. In no way I’m I saying the Cousins isn’t a good QB, but the Redskins needed more from him when the season was on the line. Having Kirk Cousins, was a luxury for the Redskins during the last 2 seasons. Honestly they had no intention of paying Cousins market value, so paying tons of money on the franchise Tag was ridiculous and a waster of time. These moves put other positions on hold. They did strike gold with Swearenger & Brown though, but with more money in hand in 2016 they could have given Brown a longterm contract in the $5 million dollar range. They also could have had a legit chance at signing Calais Campbell, but bowed out due to his asking price. They instead went bargain shopping and signed McGee & McLain. Those moves haven’t worked out, on the other hand Campbell registered 14.5 sacks in ‘17 with Jacksonville. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened if Griffin was never selected as the Franchise QB in 2012 and Cousins was the sole signal caller selected instead. After the most recent debacles with former Redskins QB’s Rex Grossman, Donavan McNabb and John Beck, the front office was desperate to find their next franchise QB.
Robert Griffin III showed up with the glitz & glamor, that made the Heisman Trophy winner such as polarizing figure. Behind him sat Kirk Cousins, who hoped he could get some playing time, which in turn would help his future trade value. Well we all saw what happened, after the glorious 2012 run to the playoffs ended with the Griffin’s knee injury. It became a Media Soap Opera once again in The Nations Capital, with the local headlines reading “Griffin vs the Shanahan’s”. In the end Snyder sided with th Baylor QB, while Shani Sr and Junior were shown the door. Fast forward to 2017 in which Cousins was franchised a second consecutive year.
I recently read an interesting comment from NFL analysts Sean Salisbury, who played quarterback in the NFL for 8 season. He believed from Kirk’s 2017 tape that the QB was playing not to always win games, but also to preserve his completion percentages and keeping his turnovers down. Ordinarily I wouldn’t agree with the media, but the unnecessary sacks he took were evident in 2017. Kirk’s reasoning was he was holding onto the ball longer, in order to let more routes develop. He knew it was unlikely the Redskins would Tag him again and he was playing with an eye towards Free Agency. After the season concluded, Jay Gruden’s comments about a 7-9 record wasnt good enough when asked about Cousins production. That statement was met with some static, by the former MSU quarterback. Cousins believed the record was more due to the teams shortcomings, rather than his. It all comes down to interpretation though because Kirk watches his words carefully, similar to a Politician and it was evident more than ever in 2017. This marriage was headed towards divorce, but many fans were and are still in denial. The Redskins quickly realized during the final stretch of the 2017 season, that it was almost over. Reports arose that no contract offer or discussions took place between Cousins and the Redskins, following the conclusion of the 2017 season. Many fans who accepted the inevitable Cousins departure, called for Colt McCoy to start while a rookie signal caller was groomed. As a Die Hard Skins fan, I was thankful with the path that the Redskins choose moving forward. I recently had a reader suggest I mention the recent news of the possibility of potentially “Taging and Trading Cousins”. Simply put, the Skins will complete a sign and trade when Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones play a game of beer pong together. It’s not happening folks! A trade can’t occur, without Cousins playing ball. I understand that the Skins backed themselves into this corner, but it’s time to cut the cord. Fans need to be happy that the Skins will most likely receive a 3rd round 2019 Compensatory Draft pick, that they will receive once Cousins signs elsewhere.
This Is Now
Around 9:30 pm on January 30th, Skins Fans started getting news alerts about a big trade that just took place. Usually big NFL trades take place Pre or Post NFL Combine, well Dan Snyder and Co had other plans.
The talk around the DMV was that Cousins could still be Franchise Taged. Cousin even held his own Q&A session to raise money for his charity. Not surprising to fans, nothing new was learned during the event, but after later Cousins did say he’d sign the Tag if designated again. Now let’s get back to the late night trade. Per reports Skins brass was on the phone all day with the Kansas City Chiefs front office, attempting to bring QB Alex Smith to Washington. The main roadblock the Redskins would face, was the competition for the former number one overall pick as previously mentioned. The Chiefs made a concerted effort to help Smith find a desirable landing spot, while getting appropriately compensated. The Skins knew they would most likely recoup a 3rd round compensatory pick in 2019, they promptly offered their 2018 3rd round pick to KC in return for Smith. The Chiefs insisted that Skins Nickel Corner Kendall Fuller be included in the deal, which is what sealed the deal in the end. This was a calculated risk by the Redskins, considering Bashaud Breeland was also leaving via Free Agency. Per reports, the Redskins brass had some concerns about Fuller’s surgically repaired knee. During his last year at Va Tech, the cornerback under went the dreaded Micro-Fracture knee procedure. In the past this was a career ender for most athletes, but with modern medicine things have changed dramatically. While looking up the history of Micro-Fracture knee procedures, I came across an alarming statistic. The majority of athletes who under go this procedure, usually have to have a second major knee procedure within a few years. Former first overall NBA draft pick Greg Oden, underwent this procedure and was never the same after the second knee cleanup. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility, that Fuller could have still been a Draft Day trade pawn in order to get their QB of the future. So I walk away with a warm feeling, that the Skins have their Pro Bowl signal caller for the next 3-5 years. If it wasn’t for Smith turning 34, the acquisition would have received more local praise. The national media actually tabs this as a savvy move, as due I.
Per Kansas City Chiefs 610 Sports Radio Host Bill Maas’s interview with ESPN 980 Host Al Galdi;
“Alex Smith is a confident and very intelligent leader who players follow. The adversity he’s faced running so many different offenses, have made him the leader he is today and KC lost their locker room leader”. -Bill Maas
I’d say that’s high praise for a supposed “aging veteran”. I understand he’s 34 years old, but Smith has avoided major injuries and is extremely talented at protecting himself. Much in the same way as Cousins, Smith absorbs contact with the best of them. The polarizing difference is Smith is equally good at protecting himself, especially when he’s forced to run or make an off schedule play.How smart is Alex Smith? Per John Feinstein’s interview with CSN’s JP Finlay, Smith was actually accepted to Harvard, but he desired to play in postseason College Bowl games. After learning that the Ivy league doesn’t participate in postseason Bowls, he looked for another option. Smith accepted a scholarship to Utah and completed his degree in a little over two years. The former Utah signal caller doesn’t use social media per reports, he’s all reserved when it comes to the media in general. He’s also heavily involved in his charitable organization The Smith Foundation, which he started his rookie year in San Francisco. The charity helps underprivileged kids go to college. Per a recent Boston Globe survey in which pro athletes charities were analyzed, Smith’s foundation donated the highest percentage at 91%. The average is 65% per the survey. I think we’ve at least checked off the intelligence and character boxes, in regards to the Redskins new quarterback.
The thought of Smith & Gruden working together gives me hope for next season. Smith’s a good fit in Gruden’s version of the West Coast Offense. Smith is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he threw for 4,042 yards 26 TD’s 5 ints and rushed for 355 yards(1 TD). Very similar numbers to Kirk Cousins. Those are impressive statistics, but Smith lost only 1 fumble all year! If being a game manager earns your team 9 to 11 wins every year, I’m on board! That’s exactly how the last three seasons panned out for Smith. The Alex Smith to Tyreek Hill connection, has been lauded as the primary reason for Smith’s 2017 success. I agree Hill’s blazing speed helped Smith have a career setting year, but let’s not crown the speedster the next Steve Smith! Hill finished 2017 with 1183 receiving yards and 7 TD’s. Smith’s primary target, All Pro tight end Travis Kelce finished 2017 with 1038 receiving yards and 8 TD’s. Add in rookie RB Kareem Hunt’s 1700 combined rushing/receiving yards and it adds up to an impressive arsenal. Smith’s success is directly attributed to being a savvy veteran who’s seen everything, rather than being a “Check down Charlie” with some great weapons. Speaking of weapons, having a healthy Chris Thompson will help Smith’s transition in Gruden’s offense. Thompson finished third in the NFL in receiving yards, amongst all running backs. What’s more impressive is he kept that mark and missed the final 6 games. If Jordan Reed can stay healthy and that’s a huge if, he could possibly duplicate Kelce’s production. I do like the history Smith and Vernon Davis have as well. Jamison Crowder can also be an effective weapon, but a Tyreek Hill he is not. The rest of the receiving core including Josh Doctson is a mystery at this point. Moving forward, finding speed at WR and more importantly a franchise RB is priority on offense. Resigning Spencer Long, drafting a LG or both will help Smith succeed as well. This O-line is light years better than Kansas City’s, but health and the hole at Left Guard have hamstrung this team. I believe Gruden will invest more in the run game this year, based on the type of quarterback Alex Smith is. Jay will be able to run more Zone Read/Run Pass Option/Jet Sweep formations, in which he’d pull out of his hat from time to time. Although it’s still early in the offseason process, the Redskins have put themselves in good position to upgrade all areas of need. Early Reports have the Skins projected to have over $35 million in available salary CAP, after Smith’s $17 million 2018 salary is on the books. Doing their due diligence in FA and the Draft, will keep this teams progress on course. As fans we simply can’t look back at the wake left behind. We need to embrace the Redskins new signal caller and look forward to the upgrades to come! Thanks for checking out The B&G Report and stay tuned to the next Defensive Draft Prospect edition!