Washington Redskins
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins are currently faced with a significant problem. They recently traded for quarterback Case Keenum, but it seems likely that they will need to look elsewhere for a long-term solution at the position.

Keenum is already 31, and has only had one successful season in his career. It seems in all likelihood that he is merely a stopgap until the Redskins find their quarterback of the future. In order to do this, they have a few options available to them. Each of these options has varying degrees of risk and plausibility associated with it.

The Redskins find themselves in this tricky situation despite the fact that, just last season, they signed quarterback Alex Smith to a four-year, 94-million-dollar contract. Unfortunately, Smith suffered a catastrophic leg injury against the Houston Texans in Week 11. This event ended his season and jeopardized his future in the NFL. Losing Smith forced Washington to look for multiple new quarterbacks to replace him. This is problematic, because they are already paying a large amount of money to Smith.

Alex Smith’s importance to the Redskins

The Redskins situation looks even worse when you consider just how important Smith was to their offense in 2018. While most people view the veteran quarterback as mediocre at best, a notion that I tend to agree with, without him the Redskins struggled immensely. His 2018 Offensive Share Metric (OSM) grade was a 28.34, making him the sixth highest graded quarterback in the NFL. Mediocre or not, Smith was instrumental to Washington’s success. The fact that he did not play the entire season makes it challenging to compare his stats with those of other NFL quarterbacks. However, the fact that the Redskins collapsed after Smith was injured speaks to his importance. Washington had six wins and three losses prior to Smith’s injury, but after he got hurt, they only won one of their remaining seven games.

When examining these stats, it becomes even more clear why the Redskins should continue looking for a quarterback despite signing Keenum. Again, comparing the two quarterbacks to each other directly is difficult because of Smith’s injury. However, but examining their OSM grades reveals a significant difference. Keenum received a grade of just 22.16, six points lower than Smith. This made him the 25th ranked quarterback in the NFL. For comparison, other quarterbacks in that area include Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Derek Carr. If Keenum continues to perform at that level, the Redskins will almost certainly need to look elsewhere for their long-term quarterback.

Finding a quarterback in the draft

The most obvious way for Washington to find their new quarterback is through the draft. In this regard, Smith has really put the Redskins in a compromising position. He played too well before getting hurt for the Redskins to get a high draft pick, but his injury has forced the Redskins to look elsewhere for a starting quarterback. Ideally, they would be in a position where they could select one of the draft’s few stars at the position. But with the 15th pick in the draft, this seems unlikely. The best quarterback prospects, Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, and Drew Lock, will almost certainly be gone by that point, leaving Washington to pick from whatever remains of the second-tier prospects. And to me, selecting Will Grier of Daniel Jones at pick 15 is relatively uninspiring.

The lack of quality quarterback selections means that the Redskins have a few choices. The first is trading up for one of the previously mentioned prospects. This strategy would cost the Redskins a great deal. When the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to the 10th overall pick in 2017 to select Patrick Mahomes, they gave up their first and third round selections that year, as well as their first round pick the following year. The high cost does not necessarily mean that Washington will not trade up anyway; it obviously worked out well for Kansas City, but there is a risk associated with a move like that. If the player the Redskins select does not turn out to be a star, Washington will have sacrificed a lot of future draft capital for nothing.

Trading for Josh Rosen

A less conventional option would be to trade for current Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback Josh Rosen. Rosen had a rough rookie season, receiving an OSM grade of 20.91. This was one of the lowest in the NFL.  However, the Arizona offense was so poor overall that it is difficult to say whether or not he will improve in the future. Additionally, many teams liked Rosen coming out of college, with the Cardinals being impressed enough to draft him 10th overall. Maybe Washington liked what they saw during Rosen’s time at UCLA, and view his first NFL season as a fluke. If they believe that he will make significant strides in his sophomore season and beyond, then they might be willing to trade for him.

This scenario relies on certain key factors occurring in order for it to work. The most obvious of these is that the Cardinals actually need to be willing to trade Rosen. Rumors have been going around suggesting that Arizona will take Murray with the first overall pick. This move would make Rosen expendable, but unless it actually happens then Rosen will almost certainly stay with Arizona. If the Cardinals decide to go in a different direction, then the Redskins will need to find a different solution to their quarterback problem.

Another potential barrier for this trade is whether or not Washington would actually be willing to give up what Arizona asks for. Rosen would likely cost the Redskins their 2019 first round pick, and possibly even more than that. In my estimation, Rosen is not worth that much, but Washington is in a somewhat desperate situation. Perhaps their evaluation of Rosen differs from mine, or perhaps they feel that a trade such as this one would be their best chance to find their quarterback of the future. Either way, trading for Rosen could be the answer to the Redskins problems.

Waiting until 2020

The final option for the Redskins, and the one they might be forced into, is to go into the 2019 season with Keenum and the other quarterbacks currently on their roster. In this scenario, Washington’s plan would be to draft their quarterback of the future the following year. Waiting is not necessarily the most appealing choice, but it might be the only one Washington has. If they are unwilling to move up in the draft, and the Cardinals are not ready to give up on Rosen, the Redskins will probably need to give up on finding their future quarterback in 2019.

The signing of Keenum does complicate this option a little. There is the risk that the Redskins will be slightly too successful, and once again be in a position where they need to trade up in order to get the quarterback that they are genuinely interested in. On the other hand, the 2020 draft class will likely be more quarterback rich than the current one. Players like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, and KJ Costello will all potentially be declaring.

It is possible that one of these players will end up being Washington’s next star quarterback. And because there will be more quarterbacks available, the Redskins might not even need to trade up to get that player. That said, the 2020 draft is still far away, and any number of things could change between now and then, which could dramatically affect how positive the choice to wait looks in retrospect.