The Redskins acquired former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith this week, and several teams will fight to scoop up Kirk Cousins as a result.
The Kansas City Chiefs have sent quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. After playing under the franchise tag for two straight seasons, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has finally heard his cue to find another team.
Here are the most likely teams to win the competition for Cousin’s services this offseason:
Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota quarterbacks Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater are each set to hit free agency. The Vikings will likely keep one of these three capable options. Bradford and Bridgewater were first-round picks. Keenum took the team to the NFC Championship this year. If Cousins lands in Minnesota, he would not necessarily arrive as the guaranteed starter. It could likely be a competition that the media would be all over in the offseason.
Signing Cousins is a tempting opportunity for Minnesota to level up at quarterback quickly, which would complement the team’s stellar defense and keep them competitive in their division. Keep in mind that Minnesota caught a break this year with Aaron Rodgers out of the picture for most of the season. Reclaiming the NFC North title will be a daunting task if the Vikings don’t have an above-average arm to compete with Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Mitchell Trubisky in the division.
The Vikings were one game away from the Super Bowl this season, and the team offers Cousins the opportunity to win. There is a downside, though: with the departure of Pat Shurmur to the New York Giants, Cousins would have to work with an incoming offensive coordinator in Minnesota, which could be a turn-off.
5. Buffalo Bills
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor did not put up impressive numbers in 2017, and the Bills could go QB shopping this offseason. Like Minnesota, Buffalo presents Cousins with the opportunity to play opposite a good defense. However, Buffalo lacks passing weapons following the departure of receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins to the Rams.
The Bills made the playoffs this season and can get back next year with Cousins. Offering a veteran with no postseason wins in his career the chance to hit the ground running, as opposed to launching a rebuild, is an exciting opportunity.
4. Cleveland Browns
A primary reason that Cleveland has not identified a franchise quarterback this century is that the organization continuously signs passers who lack the size and arm strength to succeed in cold weather (Cody Kessler, Johnny Manziel, and Colt McCoy to name a few). Cousins saw success in the cold Big Ten at Michigan State, then again in the freezing NFC East with Washington for the past six seasons.
Having a quarterback with a bigger arm than they are used to would put Cleveland in a position to succeed. The elephant in the room is that Cousins, like any player with leverage, should think twice before joining a team that went 0-16 the season before.
The Browns hold five picks in the first two rounds, including the first fourth overall picks. These high picks give Cleveland the opportunity to grab a rookie quarterback, and pay less for him than a veteran free agent starter like Cousins would require. This year’s draft class offers incredible quarterback talent, so picking from this pool is very tempting for a team picking first.
3. New York Jets
Like Buffalo and Cleveland, the New York Jets have struggled mightily in identifying a franchise quarterback for many years. Adding Cousins would give the Jets the opportunity to leap over Buffalo and Miami for a potential wildcard spot (since stealing first place from New England is all but impossible).
Josh McCown held his own in 2017, but is up for free agency at age 39 and exited the 2017 season with injury. Cousins would be an improvement and offers the team a long-term solution.
The Jets probably won’t land top prospects Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen in this year’s draft. The team went 5-11 and sits with the number 6 pick. They do however have $100 million in salary-cap space to go and grab Cousins.
Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, like great offensive minds Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, comes from the school of Mike Shanahan. An opportunity to work with Bates would intrigue Cousins.
2. Arizona Cardinals
Following Carson Palmer’s retirement, Arizona enters 2018 with zero quarterbacks under contract and the team is in desperate need of Cousin’s services. Free agent quarterbacks have a history of success in Arizona. Kurt Warner made the Super Bowl in 2008, while Palmer made the NFC Championship in 2015. Like Buffalo and the New York Jets, Arizona will not be drafting early enough to grab Darnold or Rosen, so signing a free agent offers them the least risk.
Arizona offers Cousins a good running game with David Johnson coming back healthy next season, along with a top-ten defense. However, Cousins may be hesitant to join a team with a first-year head coach in Steve Wilks, who comes from the defensive side of the ball. Working with “Quarterback Whisperer” Bruce Arians would have been a more enticing prospect.
1. Denver Broncos
Denver’s experiments with Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch have yielded little success. Broncos VP of Football Operations John Elway has made it no secret that addressing the quarterback situation is a top priority for his team this offseason.
Denver holds the fifth pick in the NFL Draft, so they have a shot at landing a quality rookie to start over with. However, a team with a defense built to win now might lean more towards the option of signing a veteran quarterback and then grabbing a young playmaker in the draft at another position.
Denver’s roster is arguably the best of the five teams on this list and offers Cousins the opportunity to start winning right away. Keep in mind that a free agent quarterback today would likely prefer to join a team in the AFC, which is the weaker conference and offers a better chance to grab a playoff spot than the hyper-competitive NFC.
Assuming that Cousin’s move will be his own decision in free agency, his choice will ultimately come down to money versus the best opportunity to join a good roster and a winning culture. There is a solid handful of options on the table, and Kirk Cousins likes that.
Edited by Brian Kang.
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