LANDOVER, Md. -- If Kirk Cousins was auditioning for a future contract with the Denver Broncos, it was clear some of the players across from him on a cold Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field believe he has exactly what it takes to get the job.
“Kirk’s a great quarterback; I’ll say that every day of the week," said Broncos linebacker Von Miller. “... I’m with everybody else. Like I said before, a lot of teams would literally kill to have a quarterback like that. The list is long, but we’ll cross that bridge if we ever come to it."
After a 1 of 7 start to his passing game, Cousins finished 19-of-37 on Sunday for 299 yards, three touchdowns and one interception to lead the Washington Redskins to what turned out to be a rather routine 27-11 win over the Broncos.
Cousins also happens to potentially be one of the most sought-after free agents -- should the Redskins not use the franchise-player tag on him a third consecutive time. And the Broncos are expected to be in the market for a new quarterback -- or quarterbacks.
That brought plenty of intrigue into Sunday’s game, at least far more so than would usually be found in a Christmas Eve affair between two teams that already have been eliminated from the playoff race. And that only kicked up a notch when Cousins came within 36 inches of being the first 300-yard passer against the Broncos defense all season.
“In person, he was better than I thought he was, actually," said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. “ ... He can do a lot of things. He made adjustments and he can make those throws."
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. also offered his assessment on Cousins.
“I don’t want to say anything right now, but he’s a ballplayer," Harris said. “He definitely can make some plays and he can make all the throws, but I can’t say anything about next year."
The Broncos have three quarterbacks under contract for next season -- Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly. Brock Osweiler, who started Sunday’s game, will be an unrestricted free agent, and he has said he’s happy to have returned to the Broncos and that he loves playing for Denver, despite all of the uncertainty the team has had at the position this season.
Siemian, Osweiler and Lynch have all started games. All have struggled, as the Broncos have been unable to control turnovers or consistently move the ball on offense. Coach Vance Joseph has said that if Lynch’s ankle is healthy enough -- Lynch injured it in the Broncos’ Nov. 26 loss to the Oakland Raiders -- he will start the regular-season finale on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway has started making the rounds to see the top draft prospects at the position. He was at Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen’s bowl game this past week, and Elway has the look, again, of being ready to do anything and everything to fix his team at the position.
If the Redskins don’t use the franchise-player tag, Cousins will command big money, maybe some of the most of any prospective free agent. The Broncos would be making a substantial financial commitment by pursuing him. If they make that move, it would indicate that they believe Cousins is the kind of player to get them back in the games they want to play -- in January and February.
“We’re going to see how this thing goes," Cousins said Sunday. “My job was to play 16 football games this season and I still have another game to play. That’s where my focus is, and when this season is over, we’ll go from there. I have to play football well and do the best I can."
Asked if he believed he had played his last home game for Washington in the win over the Broncos -- the Redskins finish the season on the road -- Cousins simply said: “I mean, it crossed your mind. ... You have to focus on the present and certainly your mind does like to wonder, but I think as a professional athlete, you have to take pride in being mentally tough and focus on the present."