First look: Breaking down the Washington Redskins _lowres

Associated Press photo by STEVEN SENNE -- Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins

MINNEAPOLIS — For a whole host of reasons, talented, productive starting quarterbacks rarely hit the open market in free agency. 

But there's a big fish out there this offseason. 

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, a Pro Bowler in 2016 and a highly productive passer, will hit the open market after the Redskins agreed to a trade for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith this week, placing him in a position that ended up matching Drew Brees with the Saints.

"You know, it was 12 years ago, he was coming off an injury, so a lot of differences in the situation, they had drafted Philip Rivers in the first round," Cousins said. "You can always learn from guys who come ahead of you, no matter what circumstance, and that had some similarities."

Brees, obviously, was coming off of a devastating shoulder injury that team doctors in Miami decided not to clear, and Cousins is fully healthy. 

But what Brees has done in his second stop in the NFL, making a franchise his home and crafting a Hall of Fame, Super Bowl-winning career, is the kind of thing Cousins would love to do wherever he ends up signing in March. 

"As a player, as a person, the consistency, the longevity, he's a great example, along with other guys like Tom Brady and Philip Rivers," Cousins said. "Those of us who are younger and coming in behind them, we have to measure up to them. That's who we're compared to."

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.