The offseason arrives next week with plenty of issues to be resolved. One is the Washington Redskins' quarterback situation and what becomes of Kirk Cousins, the second-year backup who took over as the starter for the final three games of the season.
If Cousins is to be traded, what can the Redskins expect to receive? Coach Mike Shanahan suggested they could hope to get a first-round draft pick. But Cousins was a fourth-round choice in 2012 who will make only his fourth NFL start when the Redskins close their season Sunday against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands.
Some observers believe a second-round selection is a more realistic target for the Redskins in a prospective trade, saying a deal for a first-round pick is unlikely.
"I don't see that happening," said Louis Riddick, a former NFL scout and front office executive for the Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. "I'm not saying it can't happen. The quarterback market is often irrational. People often climb all over themselves if they see the guy they want. But to me, the high end would be a two."
Vinny Cerrato, the former Redskins executive who now hosts a radio show in Baltimore, said it will take some time for the quarterback market to develop in the offseason and for Cousins's prospective trade value to be determined.
"Teams are going to want to evaluate all the quarterbacks in the draft," Cerrato said. "They'll grade the free agents. And then you'll know what you can get for someone. I don't think anyone can honestly say at this point. You have to look at the supply and demand."
The Redskins' best option, according to Cerrato, could end up being retaining Cousins.
"It might be better for them to keep Cousins for another year," Cerrato said. "I don't know that trading him is the best thing. You have a guy (Robert Griffin III) that hasn't played 16 games yet."
Cousins made one start when both were rookies, winning a game in Cleveland down the stretch last season when Griffin was hurt. He has made two starts since Shanahan's much-debated decision this month to end Griffin's season early.
Cousins has had mixed success. He threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns Dec. 15 at Atlanta. But he also had three turnovers in that game, losing a fumble and throwing two interceptions. He threw for 197 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception last Sunday against Dallas. The Redskins lost both games, each by one point.
"I feel like I've improved," Cousins said. "I've done some good things. I feel like there's a lot I can take from it and be encouraged about going into the offseason. Obviously, I want to still finish strong and show even more this week."
Shanahan said earlier in the week: "I think any time a person plays in a game, every general manager, every decision-maker gets to see him against starters and playing against people that they have a lot of respect for. And they can evaluate his performance against the players in the National Football League."
Cerrato said he believes teams are now wary of quarterbacks who build value based on limited playing time.
Arizona traded a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 for quarterback Kevin Kolb, who had made seven NFL starts. Seattle signed quarterback Matt Flynn, who'd made two starts for the Green Bay Packers, to a three-year, $26 million contract in 2012 in free agency. Neither quarterback has remained a regular NFL starter.
"I think they'll be scared to death," Cerrato said. "Flynn? Kolb? Who's had success? And this last game didn't help Cousins."
Said Riddick: "There will be a lot of factors. It will be driven by what his demand is and how desperate teams are. His play in this last week of the regular season will be a factor. But to say you can get a one - that's wishful thinking, to me."