Should the Browns pursue Kirk Cousins?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY

There might not be any “there” there but Pro Football Talk is attempting to go there nevertheless. According to the longstanding rumor mill, “there’s a growing belief in some circles” that the Cleveland Browns will make a run at trading for Washington Football Team quarterback Kirk Cousins.

First of all, can we talk about the irony? Terrelle Pryor just signed there on a “prove it” kind of deal, presumably to play with a better quarterback than what the Browns will offer. Then, in a completely different slice of irony cake, the Browns cut Robert Griffin III and then trade for Kirk Cousins to replace him? That’s a whole ‘nother level.

Regardless, I start thinking about Kirk Cousins and I’m not wholly excited. Cousins is an improvement over what the Browns currently have on the roster, sure, but what’s the team’s ceiling with Cousins under center? How much higher is his ceiling than fellow former mid-rounder Cody Kessler? Presuming the Browns have to trade their No. 12 pick and an additional second-round pick, are we sure that available players in those slots won’t potentially have a higher ceiling than Kirk Cousins?

I just asked a million questions. Go.

Michael Bode: Craig, you and I disagree on the fringes, but I usually see a path to why you believe the way you do. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I am failing to see a path to you stating “thinking about Kirk Cousins and I’m not wholly excited.”

I’m not excited by PFT’s statement either. Do you know why? Because there is no way that a NFL team is letting go of a quarterback with a 68 percent completion rate, 7.9 YPA, 99.3 QBRating, 54 touchdowns to just 23 interceptions, while throwing for 284 yards per game over the last two seasons. Cousins might not be a Top 10 quarterback, but he is knocking on that door along with guys like Matthew Stafford.

If the asking price is somehow only the No. 12 and 33 selections for a quarterback that can be your franchise guy for 8-10 years (Cousins is 28 years old), then you make that deal and laugh at the absurdity of your good fortune (you would have to negotiate a long-term deal too).

Again though, there’s no way that the Redskins will trade a legit Pro Bowl quarterback. The Buffalo Bills wouldn’t even seriously consider trading Tyrod Taylor for goodness sakes.

Sorry, I’m stuck on that statement before I can go onto any of your other questions. Can you help me understand why you feel that way?

Oh and…

Yes, I like that Kirk. I like that very much.

Craig: My memory is good. Kirk Cousins has put up an excellent year and a half in terms of stats. It’s really encouraging, but I’m not wholly convinced he won’t turn back into a turnover machine at some point. Obviously, it’s also intriguing that he got better under Hue Jackson’s predecessor in Cincinnati, Jay Gruden. I’m still having a tough time with the idea.

It’s interesting because if we had him on the Browns already, I’d agree with you, that we would never want to lose him. If he were a free agent, I’d be with you that we’d want to sign him. In terms of prying him away and trading a first-round pick plus to get him, I’m considerably less excited. Maybe it’s my mental block, but I just don’t see him as a “legit Pro Bowl” quarterback except in the sense that Derek Anderson was once considered a “Pro Bowl” quarterback. Maybe Kirk Cousins will continue to prove it, but I’m not willing to bet the draft picks at this point. Maybe you can convince me.

And you keep saying in other places that he’s more like Matthew Stafford. I don’t know why, but I don’t have that feeling about him.

Michael: Thank you, I can see the logic behind your statements now. I deleted the words “batshit crazy” from my last response because I knew you just weren’t articulating your worries. Yes, Cousins had some struggles when he was ramping up on the speed of NFL defenses, and he excelled with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson as his primary wideouts (better than what we have on our roster).

Also, the Browns have done a fantastic job so far fixing the offensive line issues in free agency, but there is a chance that the injury-sensitive players (Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter specifically) miss time and cause issues.

Still, Cousins is better and far more proven than the illustrious Derek Anderson. Even just taking Anderson’s best eight game sample, his per game numbers don’t match what Cousins has done over his last 32. From Week 2 through 10 of 2007, Anderson had a 57 percent completion rate, 7.75 YPA, 93.4 QBRating, 19 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, while throwing 255 yards per game. Those are good numbers, but defenses adjusted and the bottom fell out for Anderson over the last seven games (and again, they are not as good as what Cousins has done).

Defenses have had two and a half seasons of tape to adjust to Cousins, but he has adjusted to them instead. He doesn’t have the same first-round pedigree as Matthew Stafford, but his results from the past two seasons mirror him. They are the same age. They have had nearly identical statistical seasons as well as overall team records. Both teams “could do better” at quarterback, but both teams should be happy with who they have as well.

I understand the sticker shock of trading away young, cheap talent who might become fantastic players. I am infatuated with the NFL Draft, and this is a deep one with some guys that I would love to see put on the orange helmet. However, think back to the quarterbacks we have had under center since 1999.

Besides, do you know who Cousins really reminds me of? His ability to throw precision passes despite not being the most physically gifted athlete. His somewhat maverick persona on the field willing to clash just enough with coaches to lead his team. Put some curls in that hair and I’m going to have some flashbacks.

This discussion is all for naught unless Mike Mayock becomes the GM of the Redskins and decides to take some crazy pills. But, if that does happen, then have I helped inch you any closer to my side on this one?

Craig: I understand your points, but I can’t bring myself to believe in Kirk Cousins. I see his stats. I see the comparisons. I even know that you’re right in terms of the value of trading for him, but it feels very self-limiting as a franchise. I can’t imagine Kirk Cousins helping you win a Super Bowl. I know that maybe that’s not totally fair, but it’s the way I see it. He makes them better and solidifies the position, but I still think he puts an upper limit on your team. You used Matthew Stafford as an example and I actually like him from watching him. I think of a guy like Joe Flacco when I think of Kirk Cousins. I don’t think of him because they’re similar, other than I know I should want them to play for my team over many alternatives. I’m just not excited about it. This feels very much like the “elite” argument with Flacco, however.

From a practical standpoint, Washington needs to trade him or watch him leave in free agency, and maybe that’s part of the equation for me too. I feel the same way about Garoppolo. I know that New England wants to continue to pretend that they’re content to keep him, but both these teams are under pressure to do something about both these quarterbacks or get nothing for them. From that standpoint, whether I want the Browns to trade for them or not, I think they need to maintain their cool and leverage by not giving an inch more than they have to give in the trade market. Nobody has the picks the Browns have, so it would be easy for them to get cleaned out. I don’t want to overvalue draft picks, but I also don’t want to see the Browns get taken advantage of in the trade market.

I’m not sure where we go from here. I don’t think you can make me excited about Cousins no matter what, even as I recognize you’ve done a fine job representing your point of view.

Michael: Your side is fair too though I worry about holding out for the next Tom Brady and getting stuck with the next Brady Quinn instead. And hey, I tried.

  • NankirPhelge

    And I’m giving my rose to . . . Craig! (Before I become the object of ridicule, I would never ever watch that show.)

    I see Cousins more comfortable wearing journeyman jeans than a franchise suit. Me not want.

  • BenRM

    I was anti-Cousins when people were clamoring for him after what I call the “Bootleg Game.” It was his first season, it was a gimmicky game plan, and he wasn’t even the QB on his team, let alone in the league. He was just another guy.

    Fast forward 5 and 6 years. The guy can play. We’ve seen improvement since 2014. (Yes, there are some numbers you can quibble with between 2015 and 2016.) He’s 28, which means he has at least 1 big contract left in him. 2 if he stays healthy and doesn’t fall off the Matt Schaub cliff.

    There is more than enough data on this guy to safely say he is in the top 16 starting QBs in the league (and I am being conservative and counting some of the younger QBs like Prescott as “better.”)

    If Cousins would agree to a long-term deal in Cleveland, I think it makes much more sense than Jimmy the Grop, aka Jimmy Grabapablo, aka Jimmy Appleseed.

  • maxfnmloans

    I loathe Michigan State. I think I coined the moniker “Kork Coupons” I spent 4 years tryingt o convince people that MSU was the luckiest CFB team on the planet and that Kork was garbage, and just a lucky SOB whose receivers bailed him out time and time again. He kept winning

    The he went to the NFL. I didnt see him being much more than a career backup. After RG3s success in their rookie year, that seemed to be the right track. Then, things changed. Now Kirk is putting up numbers and winning the games he should win. However, it does concern me that at the end of last season, when he HAD to win a game to get the team to the playoffs, he put up an absolute clunker. it concerns me that the previous year, in the playoffs, he wasn’t all that great either.

    So maybe his ceiling is moderately ok NFL QB who wins the games he is supposed to win, doesnt do anything stupid and struggles against superior competition. I think Im okay with that. The game at the end oflast year was only his second as a starter. Maybe he gets better. Maybe, if he has a good team around him, and an excellent defense, thats all a team needs to be playoff worthy year in and year out. Make the playoffs, and you have a 1 in 6 chance of making the Super Bowl. make the Super Bowl and its a coin flip.

    Maybe he doesnt pan out. maybe his ceiling is somewhere between 7-9 and 10-6 depending on the year. Maybe he only makes the playoffs every other year. I still think that might be better than an handful of wishes.

    The fans who act like an Alex Smith level QB isnt good enough for us astound me. Its as if they’re worried about someone’s ability to run a marathon when we cant even crawl across the living room without eating a faceful of carpet. Additionally, the talk of trading #12 and a second to get him, many people act like thats trading away a sure-fire HOF player, and a 10 year starter. Maybe we’re trading away Barkevious Mingo and David Veikune? Not to be negative and all but we, of all fan bases, should know what fools gold draft picks can be. They arent anything until theyre something and Kirk Cousins is something. That something may not be a hall of fame player, but it’s also not a certain drunken narcissistic, liliputian POS jackass spoiled rich boy Texan who doesnt GAF about anything but the next party.

    If it doesnt cost that farm or the future to get him, I say give it a whirl. 2011 me just threw up.

  • BenRM

    “The fans who act like an Alex Smith level QB isnt good enough for us
    astound me. Its as if they’re worried about someone’s ability to run a
    marathon when we cant even crawl across the living room without eating a
    faceful of carpet.”

    This so much. And I think Alex Smith is legitimately bad…and I’d still take him.

  • Garry_Owen

    Would just like to point out that Craig can’t imagine Cousins winning a Super Bowl, and thinks he’s more like Joe Flacco . . . who won a Super Bowl.

  • This may be oversimplifying things, but they need a quarterback. Let’s say Cousins is somewhere in that 12-15 range for franchise guys. If they think they can obtain a better one in the draft, you do that. If you don’t think you can, then you trade for him. If you think Jimmy Garropolo is better, and can be had for similar price, you do that. This shouldn’t be that hard.

  • BenRM

    I missed that. I am ashamed.

  • jpftribe

    Unless you think the Browns should pay him $40M next year, why in the world would you want to waste draft picks only to have Shanahan steal him in next year’s FA?

    He’s not signing a deal with the Browns.

  • Jaker

    Assuming he signs long term (because NO WAY if he won’t commit to that), I’d like to see them make an offer. Unless they think a guy at 12 or 33 can be just as good, because I do like the idea of saving the money for more extensions and keeping the picks to help our D and take a 21 year old to develop.

    It would also be so funny if TP leaves the Browns for not having a QB, then the Browns get the QB he left for. Priceless.

  • I’m probably not the best person to decide whether Cousins is a Super Bowl winning caliber QB, or just a journeyman (is anyone until he maybe wins a SB?). However, his resume seems impressive enough to take a shot on trading for him.

  • maxfnmloans

    you said “this shouldnt be that hard” in reference to something the Browns were doing…hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    -deep breath


  • CBI

    The one Cousins stat that really caught my eye was his record against winning teams… 2-11 vs. teams with 9+ wins, 5-13 vs. teams with 8+ wins.

  • mgbode

    Note the mention an extension should be part of any such deal.

  • mgbode

    OK, now I’ll trust that those are his records – no reason to think otherwise.

    But, could it be that the Top 10 Redskins offense had less to do with those losses than the Bottom 10 Redskins defense?

    (quick look at yardage is: 3rd in yards for / 28th in yards against) — not the best measure but a quick one on the stat page

  • Eric G

    I’m glad this got upvoted enough that I saw it and didn’t make the redundant comment I usually do.

  • Harv

    Having watched the QB parade of horrors for 19 straight years, no Browns fan’s opinion should even be taken seriously on this subject. It’s like asking a guy at the end of a 15 to 20 year sentence which female prison guard is hot. Deprivation has hopelessly twisted all objectivity into the nonsensical prattling of bored cellmates.

    The next Browns QB with just an ounce of talent will hopefully be only confused, and not warped, by the drooling parolees.

  • Chris

    You only get that level of irony in an Alanis Morrisette song.

  • Jaker

    “Its like listening to Drewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
    About how to get paid,
    Or leaving the Browwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwns
    Right before they got great”

    …This could be fun…

  • tsm

    Great analogy Harv!

  • Trade 12, 33, and who knows what else for a guy we’d be obligated to lock in with a long-term, big-money deal before seeing him do anything for us? Didn’t like the idea for Garoppolo, don’t like it for Cousins.

  • mgbode

    Sure, tha’ts fine. Defintiely a difference between Garoppolo’s 94 career pass attempts and Cousin’s 1556 pass attempts, no?

  • A difference, sure. Enough to convince me he’s worth paying like a top-five guy? No.

  • mgbode

    He’s somewhere in the 11-15 range of QB – that Top 5 pay (if that is even what it took) would be overtaken by next FA period and he’d quickly be back to around where he belonged

  • Oh yeah. Totally understand. There’s a difference between Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco and Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and even Drew Brees, just for a few examples.

    Even having seen Joe Flacco winning a Super Bowl, I never picture him doing it again. That would be unreasonable in my mind.

  • mgbode

    Like Eli Manning, a second SB would be unfathomable… without fathom

    Love you Craig

  • Pat Leonard

    Yes, Cousins is 28, but he’s only been the starter for his team for the past 2 years and lived through the RG3-in-Washington era, yet somehow came out relatively unscathed. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to think that he’ll continue to get better… his next season is only his third as the full-time starter and it’s becoming a frequent thing for QBs to have their best seasons well into their 30s.

  • CBiscuit

    Agree. We don’t want just one Super Bowl. We’re looking for a guy who can win us multiple Super Bowls.

  • mgbode

    Well, umm…

    I’ll take one first, then worry about winning another 😉


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  • You make my point. I’d have traded for Eli, and I’d probably have enjoyed it after the fact, but I would have wrinkled my nose a bit.

  • mgbode

    That’s fine. I’d love to find a Brady/Rodgers but understand I would enjoy football so much more if we at least had an Eli/Flacco. I think this is the crux of our disagreement as it seems you want to hold out for more, while I’m not sure more is going to be there for the taking.

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