A little more than a year ago, on a Thursday night in April, the Washington Redskins selected their quarterback of the future. Heisman Trophy winner, voted the nation's best passer, graduated Baylor undergrad in three years, cannon for an arm, track star speed, a media darling. Look up the formula for a franchise quarterback and you'll find a picture of Robert Griffin III.
Which is why so many were shocked to see the Redskins—just two days later—spend a fourth-round draft choice on Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins.
"It is a little surprising," Cousins told reporters on that Saturday afternoon, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com. "I was trying to forecast which teams would be in need of a quarterback, and I didn't see the Redskins."
Media and fan reaction, of course, a bit more brash.
Didn't they just draft RG3? The Redskins have entirely too many needs to take another quarterback. Does Cousins even fit in Washington? He'll never start over Griffin. Here's all the proof you need that Mike Shanahan has lost it. They're not building a team, they're just collecting talent.
What a difference a year makes.
An overtime win over Baltimore here, a brilliant spot-start against Cleveland there, a handful of decent preseason outings and a devastating knee injury to end Griffin's rookie campaign—and suddenly Kirk Cousins is the hottest insurance policy in the NFL.
"If I were a coach," ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said, "I'd offer a first-round pick to the Redskins to get Kirk Cousins on my team."
While that may seem like a ridiculous asking price for most, a first-rounder is likely somewhere in the Redskins' ballpark.
But when you consider Cousins' character, the established comradery amongst his teammates and his development in a versatile and respected offense, could even a first-round pick in exchange for his services look like a lowball offer?
The answer is yes. And it has to do with timing. Because as the saying goes, time is money.
As time goes on, Cousins' value increases. With every decent outing, Cousins proves himself that much more, and he becomes more desirable as a blossoming player at the game's most important position.
If you're the Redskins, Cousins is invaluable. At just 25 years old, and with the durability of the team's starter in question, Cousins means too much to Washington to risk trading him for an unknown first-rounder (in which case you'd still need a No. 2 passer) or any other developmental quarterback in the NFL.
Cousins is set to become a free agent in 2016, at which point he'll be just shy of 28 years old. If the Redskins entertain the idea of trading him, it shouldn't be any sooner than 2015, after they've taken full advantage of Cousins' services under a rookie contract and they have a more promising perspective of Griffin's durability.
Until then, Cousins is virtually untouchable.
When you're dealing with a prized asset such as Robert Griffin III—the cornerstone of your organization—security and coverage in the form of a guy like Kirk Cousins is just as precious.
At some point, the Redskins will have a favorable opportunity to trade Cousins and net a fair, worthwhile and profitable return.
That return should be the result of the Redskins naming their price.