Browns

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.