The Washington Redskins have a quarterback they profess to like quite a bit, one who has improved steadily the past couple of seasons. But Kirk Cousins is a free agent, and if a new deal isn’t struck and the franchise tag not applied ... Well, then the Redskins and everyone else had yet another chance Monday night to see what Clemson's Deshaun Watson could do.
So if for some reason they move on from Cousins (I think he’ll be back), here’s the question: Would Watson be a legitimate option?
Why he would: It would save the Redskins a lot of cash and give them the ability to spend that money elsewhere. If the Redskins can’t work out a long-term deal, and want to avoid the franchise tag, then this has to be an option. Of course, just look at this franchise's past 15-20 years to realize that spending money does not equate to success. Still, as far as drafting Watson, he seemed to play his best in the biggest games -- he gave Clemson a chance to win last season's national title, and he won it this season. Watson used the talent around him to excel and showed playmaking ability. Though he does like to run, Watson did show an ability to throw from the pocket and can make all the throws. He’s a major competitor. Also, the Redskins would not have to start him right away. They could go with veteran Colt McCoy until Watson is ready. McCoy knows the offense well and the coaches know what he can do; if Nate Sudfeld develops with another young quarterback here, he could be a future solid backup. Plus they have one of the better quarterback coaches in the league in Matt Cavanaugh. It would be a good situation for the right rookie. They could invest heavily in the defense, both in free agency and the draft. They can also look for a dynamic running back to enhance that aspect, making it even more palatable. General manager Scot McCloughan was high on Russell Wilson five years ago, so even if Watson measures shorter than 6-foot-2, it wouldn’t have to end consideration.
Why he wouldn’t: First off, he might not be available. Watson seems to be all over the place when it comes to draft experts rating him -- ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., for example, has him as a second-round pick. Others will have him in the first round. Watson was fantastic in the second half Monday night, but drafting a player is not based on one game. Of course, he has a strong body of work to review, and a lot of that is very good. The 30 interceptions over the past two seasons are not good and will require a lot of dissection. You have to be thorough if you ditch a quarterback coming off two good years to go with a rookie. The Redskins have plenty of cap space to work out a deal with Cousins and still improve the roster. Just because a deal might average, say, $24 million a year does not mean that’s what it will count right away -- and possibly not for a few years. So they’d be able to keep a quarterback who has produced in this offense, knowing what they can expect from him rather than grooming a rookie. And they could still improve and contend for the postseason. With any rookie quarterback, questions arise about what they can do from an NFL pocket, etc. It also would be a third straight season the first-round pick would be spent on offense.