Kirk Cousins might still help the Washington Redskins. After an offseason approach to free agency that they deemed patient -- others called it frugal -- the Redskins' strategy could yield benefits next season, thanks in part to Cousins.
When Cousins signed a record contract with the Minnesota Vikings during free agency, it meant that the Redskins will likely receive a third-round compensatory pick in the 2019 draft.
As of May 9, any remaining free agents who sign don’t count against the compensatory-pick formula. According to Overthecap.com, the Redskins are in line for four compensatory picks: one in the third round, one in the fifth and two in the sixth. The picks won't be announced until next offseason, but this site has been good at figuring out the formula to determine who gets what.
Washington traded its 2018 third-round choice to Kansas City for quarterback Alex Smith, so the compensatory picks will help the Redskins regain much of that value.
The key one, of course, is the third-rounder. There have been 75 compensatory selections in the third round -- an average of three per year -- since the NFL began awarding them in 1994. The Redskins haven’t had a compensatory pick since 2011, and the last time they had a third-rounder was 2008, when they selected lineman Chad Rinehart.
Among the notable third-round comp picks over the years: linebacker Mike Vrabel (1997) and receiver Hines Ward (1998) by Pittsburgh and linebacker Leroy Hill (2005) by Seattle.
Had the Redskins traded Cousins a year ago -- as some with the team wanted to do -- they could have gotten a stronger return, though it’s unknown who would now be the Redskins quarterback. The team likely would have drafted one.
Intentional or not, the expected haul of extra picks represents a shift for the franchise. Since this system began in 1994, the Redskins have had only 12 compensatory selections. They typically have signed more free agents than they have lost.
But this offseason, they signed one unrestricted free agent: receiver Paul Richardson. Their other signings had been cut by their former teams (Pernell McPhee, Orlando Scandrick), so they don’t count against the formula. Meanwhile, the Redskins lost free agents Cousins, Spencer Long, Terrelle Pryor, Ryan Grant, Niles Paul and Will Compton.
Because the NFL awards only 32 compensatory selections each year, not all of these losses will result in a pick.
Had Bashaud Breeland not failed a physical in Carolina, the Redskins would have had an even stronger case for extra draft picks. There didn’t appear to be any real consideration to tendering him a deal before the deadline. If that had happened, then the Redskins likely would have improved their haul. But by tendering, the Redskins knew they might have been forced to keep Breeland, albeit at a cost of around $1.7 million. They had no plans to retain him, so this was a nonstarter.
Of the Redskins' previous compensatory picks, eight were seventh-rounders. Among their notable selections: fullback Rock Cartwright (seventh round, 2002), who played eight seasons in Washington, linebacker Rob Jackson and safety Chris Horton (both in the seventh round, 2008).
Here’s how the anticipated haul can help:
Filling an immediate need. If the Redskins indeed get four more picks next spring, they’ll have 11 overall. That’s a lot of choices for a team that still has all 10 picks from 2017 around and just selected eight more. If after the offseason program the Redskins want to make a trade for, perhaps, a left guard, they could do so and know they’d still have a lot of 2019 draft picks. They can't yet trade compensatory picks because they don't know exactly what they'll have, but they could trade one of their own picks, knowing what eventually will be coming their way.
2019 offseason deals. That extra draft capital could be used to make a trade or two next offseason, adding a veteran player in an area of need. Those players come with higher costs than rookies, but they’re also proven. The Redskins let Cousins sign elsewhere in part so they can afford other players.
Draft maneuvering. There will definitely be advocates in the building for keeping those picks. Many front-office types and scouts consistently say they value picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. The more you have there, the better. The Redskins could move up to grab even more in the fourth round by packaging picks. Two weeks ago, the Redskins drafted safety Troy Apke in the fourth round and defensive lineman Tim Settle in the fifth. Both could contribute immediately on special teams (Apke) or as part of a rotation (Settle). If this works, the Redskins would be adding players who could help on the cheap, saving money to conceivably use elsewhere. Or, if those players develop, it allows the Redskins to let a player leave who might be costly to retain -- or too expensive to otherwise replace. That has been an issue in the past: The Redskins would let a player leave, only to sign someone more expensive.