Kirk Cousins hitting the open market is a bit of an unprecedented situation. There have been plenty of other big free agents in the history of the NFL, but a Pro Bowl quarterback in the prime of his career being available to all 32 teams isn’t something that happens often … or ever.
He’s not a perfect quarterback — his record is 26-30-1 as a starter in Washington — but he’s an efficient passer with three consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons and 99 career touchdown passes with 55 interceptions.
Cousins, 29, would make a lot of teams much better and that means a bidding war is probably on the way. It will likely end with the quarterback becoming the highest-paid player in NFL history.
The Kirk Cousins free agent sweepstakes
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With so many teams potentially throwing themselves into the mix, Cousins will have options.
For now, ESPN’s Adam Schefter says the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings are the favorites. But Cousins isn’t ruling any team out. That means the Cleveland Browns and their more than $100 million in cap space have the resources to jump in the fray too.
Each of those interested teams will have to convince Cousins that they’re the ones to pick. Does he want money? Does he want to win a Super Bowl? Is there a perfect blend of both out there?
Here’s how each team could try to woo Cousins when he hits the market:
The “can’t argue with results” pitch: You want to leave that 26-30-1 record in the past and start racking up wins, Kirk? Take a walk down our hall in Denver — past those three Lombardi Trophies on display — and into John Elway’s office.
Elway’s done this before. Six years ago, he convinced Peyton Manning to come sign here when plenty of other teams — the 49ers and Titans, to name a couple — wanted the future Hall of Famer. It worked out well for Peyton.
What you’d have in Denver: It’ll be tight financially, but we plan to have Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders back in 2018. With the No. 5 pick in the draft, we can keep adding to the offense too.
But the best part about the roster is still the defense. After signing Manning, we stocked the roster with players like Von Miller, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe and Chris Harris. Getting Manning was step one, and then getting the rest of the pieces to win a Super Bowl was step two.
Why we need you: Some of those players from Super Bowl 50 aren’t here anymore, but the defense was still No. 3 in the NFL last year despite our Lazy Susan of garbage at quarterback. The offense collectively finished with more interceptions than touchdowns — that’s something you can fix.
Come be your efficient self, Kirk, and Elway will make sure you have all the tools you need to do some damage in the postseason.
New York Jets
The “back up the Brinks truck” pitch: Why come to the Jets? How about MONEY?
Lots and lots of money. That’s the whole point of professional football, right? This is your job and you’ve only got another decade or so to rack up as many big checks as you can. We’re ready to give you a gigantic check — one the Broncos, Vikings and just about every other team can’t come close to matching.
What you’d have in New York: It’s not like you’re off to football Siberia either.
Despite everyone being completely convinced the Jets were tanking in 2017, we still started the season 3-2 and beat three playoff teams in our 5-11 season.
Why we need you: The last Jets quarterback to make a Pro Bowl was Brett Favre. In the nine seasons since, we’ve had some powerful rushing attacks and good defenses, but never an offense that finished top 10 in scoring. It’s time for that to change and it’s time for a real quarterback in New York again.
It might not be the greatest situation right away for you, but it will certainly be a lot of dollars. That matters, right?
The “ready to win right now” pitch: Case Keenum went 11-3 as the starter in 2017. Case Keenum. That’s how set up for success this team is.
His record as a starter in the first six seasons of his NFL was 9-15 with a passer rating of 78.4. One season here in Minnesota and — voila — the guy is a star.
What you’d have in Minnesota: Maybe Keenum’s success was because he turned a corner and stepped up his game, or maybe it’s because our defense was No. 1 in the NFL and the only two teams with more than 500 rushing attempts in 2017 were the Vikings and Jaguars. Keenum really didn’t have to do much.
Thielen made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and so did tight end Kyle Rudolph. What more could you possibly ask for?
Why we need you: Picking between Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford was tough. One might be a one-year wonder. The other two have knee injuries in their past that raise serious questions about their futures.
We don’t have time to mess around and roll the dice on those concerns. This is the only team in the market for a starting quarterback that was a playoff team last year. We’re ready to win right now and you’re just the guy for the job.
Let’s go win a Super Bowl, Kirk.
The “warm weather and dangerous weapons” pitch: Please come rescue, Larry Fitzgerald. PLEASE.
Our future Hall of Famer just keeps producing at a remarkable rate, despite a long list of bad quarterbacks throwing him the ball. I’m sure he told you all about it at the airport.
A post shared by Kirk Cousins (@kirk.cousins) on Mar 2, 2018 at 12:16pm PST
What you’d have in Arizona: Yes, the 2017 season wasn’t great, but we still finished 8-8 despite losing touchdown machine David Johnson and four-time Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati after Week 1. Then Carson Palmer went down in the middle of the year.
Johnson was an All-Pro in 2016, will be healthy in 2018, and is as good as any running back you can get paired with this offseason.
Also, wouldn’t you rather live in Arizona than Denver, Minnesota or New York? Cornerback Patrick Peterson said it best in an interview on ESPN’s First Take:
“He’ll be in warm weather, he’ll be playing on one of the best turfs in the NFL. We have some great talent around him, running game, receivers, tight end — you name it, we have everything he needs to be successful.”
Why we need you: Like Peterson said, we’ve got it all here in Arizona. Except there isn’t a quarterback. With Carson Palmer’s retirement and both Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton hitting free agency, that quarterback room is empty.
A little more injury luck and a competent quarterback, and the Cardinals can be back in business in no time. Come be that competent quarterback.
The “come be a legend” pitch: Adam Schefter says we’re not in the mix, but as long as you haven’t ruled anyone out, we sure could use a quarterback here in Cleveland.
As for why, we’ll let our 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas do the explaining:
What you’d have in Cleveland: You want money? We’ve got more than $100 million in cap space to reshape the Browns. No other team can say that.
You want glory? Imagine being the legend who saved an 0-16 team and took the NFL’s most cursed franchise to its first ever Super Bowl. Like Joe Thomas said, there’d be a statue of you in Cleveland.
You want to win? Well, here’s the thing — we’re really not that far off. The defense was pretty good in 2017 and will only get better with Myles Garrett, Joe Schobert, Jabrill Peppers, and other young players continuing to progress.
There’s work to be done offensively, and we got started on that last year by adding Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter up front. With another five draft picks in the first two rounds in 2018, this thing could get better in a hurry.
Why we need you: The offense averaged 4.5 yards per rushing attempt — much better than the 3.6 yards you dealt with in Washington — but couldn’t stop turning the ball over. TWENTY-EIGHT INTERCEPTIONS. The most any team has thrown in the last four years.
We have the resources to keep adding more young weapons, but the whole thing will work much better once there’s a quarterback worth building around. Cleveland is ready to embrace you with open arms.