Redskins placing short-term trust in Alex Smith

Updated: January 31, 2018
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Kirk Cousins was a full-time starter for three seasons in the nation’s capital. He finished with outstanding stats, one playoff appearance, which ended in a first-round exit, and one Pro Bowl nod. His regular-season record during those three years was 24-23-1. Just slightly above average.

He never proved to be the surefire answer at the quarterback position in Washington. He provided more stability than the team had experienced in the past decade, but he didn’t accomplish quite enough — at least in Jay Gruden and the Redskins’ eyes.

So instead of prolonging his contract situation, where Cousins held all the leverage, they decided to prevent the offseason headache by trading for veteran quarterback Alex Smith. The Redskins sent the Kansas City Chiefs a third-round pick and Kendall Fuller in return. It was somewhat surprising to see the team part ways with Fuller, who was rated as one of the top slot cornerbacks in the NFL in 2017. The news garnered reaction from a few Redskins players.

With Bashaud Breeland testing free agency and Fuller headed to Kansas City, the Redskins will be left with Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, who they signed to a three-year extension following the season, Fabian Moreau and Josh Holsey as their cornerbacks. Moreau is someone the coaching staff has spoken highly of, as he was drafted in the third round last year out of UCLA and has the speed and size to be a talented player at the position. He was used mostly on special teams in 2017.

The secondary was the strong point of Washington’s defense last season. D.J. Swearinger proved to be an outspoken leader at safety and Montae Nicholson showed a ton of promise, when healthy. Also, Su’a Cravens is expected to return to the field next season. So while the Redskins are aware that they’ve lost a player who could one day become a star in the defensive backfield, they must have felt their depth in the secondary can help them rebound from his departure.

But what’s even more shocking is the fact that Washington gave Smith a four-year extension worth $23.5 million per year with $71 million in guaranteed money. The Redskins basically chose to pay a soon-to-be 34-year-old Smith, but not Cousins, who will turn 30 before the 2018 season gets underway. Cousins will draw interest from a plethora of teams, however, with the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets all as potential landing spots.

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Smith is fresh off a career year in which he threw for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He has done a remarkable job protecting the ball during his 12 NFL seasons. He hasn’t thrown double-digit picks since joining the Chiefs in 2013. And the last time he did so was while in San Francisco in 2010, when he threw 10 interceptions on the year. Smith also is an underrated scrambler, which gives him the ability to extend plays when things break down — an area where Cousins improved last season, but was awfully inconsistent during his time as a starter.

And Smith has proven he can win in the NFL. While the Chiefs haven’t had a ton of success in the postseason in recent years, Smith got them there in four of his five seasons in Kansas City. The one year they didn’t go, the team finished with a winning record of 9-7.

So there is an upside to acquiring Smith in this deal. The Redskins are getting a three-time Pro Bowler, who has playoff experience and specializes in limiting turnovers. Washington can also draft a quarterback to groom in the meantime. The other option, had the Redskins lost Cousins, would’ve been handing the keys to Colt McCoy, who is well respected in the locker room, but would have been a stopgap at best.

There are a few other positions that the team needs to upgrade if it wants to compete for an NFC East title next season, like at running back, wide receiver, linebacker and along the defensive line. But this, at the very least, gives the Redskins more stability at the most important position on the field — without playing the year-to-year game with Cousins.

When giving it an in-depth look, the Redskins got an older version of Cousins at a cheaper rate, while locking him up to a long-term deal — something they failed to accomplish with Captain Kirk. Now they have the opportunity to use those extra funds to bolster their roster in other areas of need.

Smith may not always get the kudos he deserves, but he has consistently been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Whether fans want to admit that or not. So while some won’t like it, the Redskins now have to move on from the Cousins era and forge ahead, with Smith steering the ship.

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