Taking a look at the Washington Redskins by position, looking back and also taking a glance at 2016. Today: quarterbacks.
Signed for 2016: None
In limbo: Robert Griffin III. Technically he's not a pending free agent because the Redskins picked up his option, but he won't be considered signed for 2016 until the start of the new league year.
What went right: Cousins had a terrific second half of the season, throwing 23 touchdowns and only three interceptions in his final 10 regular-season games. That's a big reason why the Redskins went 9-7 and won the NFC East. He took advantage of the talent around him at receiver -- he served as a solid distributor and it eventually led to a strong attack. No one is calling him a franchise quarterback -- only a few of those guys truly exist -- but Cousins showed he could play well when surrounded by good talent. If Griffin had posted similar numbers, people would be going crazy and there'd be no doubt about what to pay him. Cousins played with more poise and confidence this season. He took greater command at the line of scrimmage. Griffin handled a tough situation well. McCoy deserves notice here, too; it was an awkward quarterbacks room, yet he made it work with both of them. Also, Cousins' durability was a big plus; he got rid of the ball on time and that, plus good protection, limited hits on him.
What went wrong: Cousins was too inconsistent for the first part of the season with eight interceptions in his first six games. Not having receiver DeSean Jackson for most of those games hurt. Also, the Redskins failed to beat a team with a winning record. That's clearly not all on Cousins, but it is one knock against both him and the team. Though he played with poise for most of the year, against the Packers he needed to exhibit a little more at times. Griffin's lack of growth has to be placed here as well; it led to changes at the position and, at some point over the next month or so, his eventual departure.
Offseason decision: How much do you pay Cousins? The two sides have talked, but nothing is close. Early on, agents will ask for a lot more than the team is willing to pay. I'd do that, too. Why not maximize? Cousins is in a terrific spot, having his best season right before free agency -- timing, folks. In an ideal world, the Redskins would have two full years of him starting to make a stronger determination and everyone could feel a lot better paying one person a lot of money. But the Redskins do like him -- for those who trust general manager Scot McCloughan in other matters, just know he definitely likes Cousins. Starting quarterbacks get paid big money and keep in mind the cap will increase this offseason and next. The Redskins can't pay him so much that they're unable to improve elsewhere, but I don't think that will happen. My guess is he'll be in the $18-20 million range -- a little more than was budgeted initially for Griffin's option ($16.2 million). The Redskins don't have many options; that doesn't mean they should go overboard paying him, but it does mean they will need to make it work. Now, all he must do is live up to the contract.
Griffin's situation: The Redskins have some options here and won't rush into any decision. If they're going to outright cut him, they'd have from the day after the Super Bowl until 4 p.m. ET March 9. It will not be done in a hurry. Unless Griffin agrees to redo his option, the Redskins will have no choice but to cut him. If he does renegotiate his option, it would likely be done as part of a trade (no trades can be made until the league year begins).
Telling stat: Cousins posted a passer rating of 113.5 in the red zone, throwing 22 touchdowns and no interceptions. That's third best in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts.
Stat that must change: In six regular-season games vs. defenses that ranked in the top half of opposing quarterback rating, Cousins threw nine touchdowns to six interceptions for an 89.2 rating. Not bad, not great. It will be an area to watch in the future -- how does he fare against the better defenses? That's a fair question when you've been awarded a big contract. More money? More scrutiny.
Looking ahead: The Redskins need Cousins (I'm assuming he re-signs) to continue improving; they're well aware he's not the next Tom Brady and needs help around him to succeed. If they can fix the run game, Cousins will continue to benefit. But this will be the first time he's entered an offseason knowing this was his team. McCoy might return, but my guess is he'll look around first to see if there's somewhere he might have more of a chance to play. Griffin is gone.