Josh Rosen trade makes sense for Redskins — but not at all costs

If the Arizona Cardinals want to trade quarterback Josh Rosen, the Washington Redskins must pounce. He makes too much sense for too many reasons, and they have needed that position filled for way too long.

That doesn’t mean they should get him at all costs. But there aren’t many good reasons they shouldn’t pursue this QB. Even after trading for Case Keenum, who will battle with Colt McCoy for the starting job, the Redskins need a quarterback of the future. Alex Smith‘s injury leaves his playing future in doubt.

There are several quarterbacks the Redskins like in this NFL draft, including some they would take with their first-round pick at No. 15 overall. There are some they might like in the second round and a couple they like later in the draft. So if the price tag for Rosen is too high — say, for their first-round pick — they won’t bite, nor should they.

But a third-rounder? No-brainer. A second? It’ll take some convincing, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent — and if the Redskins want, they can always recoup the lost pick by trading back in the first round.

Rosen is not a perfect prospect; there are questions about him that he won’t be able to answer until he plays a while. That’s why the Redskins have interest … to a point. It’s not yet at a serious stage in terms of making a move, but Rosen still makes sense for Washington for these reasons:

Salary-cap hit: Smith will count $20.4 million against the cap this year. If the Redskins release him a year from now, he’d still count $32 million in dead money (though they have a $12 million insurance policy if he indeed is done), which they could spread out over two years if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached in time. In any scenario, they need a good quarterback who doesn’t cost much. It helps that neither Keenum nor McCoy counts more than $3.5 million against the cap.

In the next three years, Rosen’s cap hits combine for $6.2 million. That would allow the Redskins to move on from Smith, absorb the cap hit and still build. Plus, if they want, they could pick up Rosen’s option and have him for a fourth year before the cost skyrockets. And if he doesn’t succeed, because the cost isn’t prohibitive they can try again next year — just as they would if a non-first round quarterback in this draft doesn’t show he can be a future starter.

QB hole: They could have their quarterback of the present and future. The Redskins have long tried to fill this void, and every time it seems like they might have succeeded, the situation turns. Robert Griffin III goes from prodigy to hurt to outcast, and Kirk Cousins gets tagged and then leaves via free agency, etc.

The Redskins have drafted 10 quarterbacks since 2000 — three in the first round — and traded for four others. They’ve signed low-end free agents. The result: Only Cousins and Jason Campbell have started for three straight years, and only Cousins started all those games. In fact, they’re the only two QBs who were the clear starter for three straight seasons since 1993.

The Redskins have failed to get this position right. They need to keep trying.

Fits coach Jay Gruden: Smith was a strong leader, but there was frustration in the first half of the season with his lack of aggressiveness down the field. Rosen is not afraid to throw down the field and would please Gruden because he is more aggressive and has a mindset more suited for Gruden than Cousins did. Rosen does need to checkdown more often — and Gruden would prefer that to forcing a ball or taking a sack.

Rosen completed 14 of 49 passes on throws of 20 or more air yards, but his attempts were 10th-most from Weeks 4 through 17, when he was Arizona’s starter. His completion percentage ranked 26th, but that’s also a function of the talent around him. The Redskins are well aware that he would need more help; they’ll be seeking some.

Gruden’s desire to use more play-action fits Rosen well, and ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky said Gruden’s West Coast system suits Rosen, who has played in a similar scheme.

But Orlovsky also said it doesn’t make sense for the Redskins to trade a first-round pick for Rosen. He’s right. The Redskins almost assuredly would agree. Orlovsky said other situations might make more sense: a team with an older quarterback who might surrender only a late first-round pick.

“Worst-case scenario, he’s one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL for pennies on the dollar. Best-case scenario, I have literally stolen my next 10 years,” Orlovsky said. “I just don’t think he’ll be there for a late second- or third-round pick.”

Orlovsky called Rosen a smart player who can make plays on the run and who could play in any offense.

“He plays with fantastic rhythm,” Orlovsky said. “He sees the field incredibly well, the subtleties of the defense. Every play, he knows, ‘This is going to be a problem. Here are the answers.’ When you have that with a quarterback, you are completely open with your playbook. You can do so much creativity-wise because you have a guy who intellectually can handle it. He can throw as good as anybody. You look at him, and you go, ‘This kid doesn’t have many flaws in his game.'”

Yet questions persist with Rosen. The biggest one, though, remains for the Redskins: When will they solve this quarterback riddle?

This is another chance to get it right.

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