Lots of rumors over the weekend about the QB free agent carousel, and here is the latest:
- Ben Volin of the Boston Globe confirms that Cousins has narrowed his possibilities to four teams: the Vikings, Jets, Cardinals and Broncos.
- He says the Jets are best positioned to make Cousins the biggest offer (which makes sense given they’ve got the most salary cap available)
- The Washington Post reports that Cousins is seeking $30 million guaranteed per year in a 3-year deal. Several other sources have reported the same figure.
- Volin also said the Vikings may have some financial issues coming up with the guaranteed money for Cousins. The Vikings have a number of long-term deals to get done, and the NFL requirement that all guaranteed money be put in escrow may leave the Vikings ownership short of cash for a big Cousins deal. Hard to believe given Zygi isn’t exactly living paycheck-to-paycheck, but $90 million for Cousins plus guaranteed money for a few other deals and that’s nine-figures the Vikings ownership needs to cough up.
- Denver is also reportedly going ‘all-in’ to land Cousins, while the Cardinals are viewed as something of a wildcard at best to land Cousins
- It was also reported by Joe Theismann, who talked to Cousins recently, that Cousins will not agree to any deal before Wednesday, and he plans to make some visits to teams before signing any deal. This will leave the teams involved in the Cousins derby scrambling to make arrangements with other QBs during the tampering period in the event they don’t land Cousins. Theismann thinks Cousins will sign with the Vikings. Update: Dianna Russini of ESPN reports that Cousins will not make visits, and that the Vikings, Cardinals and Jets are putting together recruiting pitches and video presentations to lure Cousins. Further Update: Mike Florio at PFT reports that Cousins has not finalized any plans for visits, and that he has not shared any info in that regard with ESPN. Florio goes on to say that teams interested in Cousins could be preparing aggressive offers to multiple QBs - with the first QB to sign getting the deal. Interesting.
- It seems pretty clear the Jets will be the highest bidder for Cousins’ services. But will he take it? Update: Jason LaCanfora reports that the Jets will, “put some very heavy and creative figures” in front of Cousins in attempt to get him under contract, and that they have no plans to bow down to the Vikings in their pursuit of him.
- 3/12 Update: Ian Rapaport reports that ‘at least’ two teams are prepared to give Cousins a three-year, fully guaranteed contract if that’s what it takes to sign him, and ‘at least’ one other team is willing to give Cousins a similar contract that is almost fully guaranteed, and that would make Cousins the highest paid QB in the NFL. He also reports that the Vikings remain ‘in the drivers seat’ for Cousins. He says Cousins will not likely make a decision until Wednesday or Thursday.
- Volin also reports that the Vikings talked to Bridgewater during the Combine, and said they were pursuing Cousins, but that he could be, “a viable backup plan.”
- Volin says the Dolphins and Jaguars could be in the market for Bridgewater, along with whichever teams lose out in the Cousins derby, and that he could land $12-$15 million/year in a one- or two-year prove it deal.
- The Dolphins make a lot of sense as a potential landing spot for Bridgewater, who would be at home in Miami.
- Update: Jason LaCanfora reports that Bridgewater could be a Plan B option for the Jets if they don’t land Kirk Cousins.
- The Broncos look to be focused on Keenum as their plan B if they lose out on the Cousins derby.
- Charley Walters with the Pioneer Press estimates a Keenum contract could be in the $45 million range over 3 years, with $20 million guaranteed. That’s half what Cousins is seeking overall, and $70 million less guaranteed.
- Joe Theismann thinks the Vikings won’t re-sign Keenum even if they don’t land Cousins, because Mike Zimmer did not commit to Keenum during the season last year.
- Volin estimates Keenum’s new contract could be in the $16-$18 million range per year- still just over half what Cousins is seeking, and likely with much less guaranteed.
- The Cardinals, Jets and Vikings are also leading contenders for Keenum’s services, who is seen as a backup plan for whichever teams don’t land Cousins.
- Bills are reportedly interested in Keenum, and Sam Bradford.
VIKINGS NEED TO BE CAREFUL
If Cousins jumps for the money only the Jets can offer him (which is very possible) or John Elway convinces him Denver is the best place to win (also possible), the Vikings could be scrambling to land their Plan B, which they have shirked in the process of courting Cousins.
If the Jets land Cousins, let’s say, and Elway starts singing Keenum’s praises- and he has said he likes Keenum several times in the past- Keenum could easily sign with the Broncos. Meanwhile, Teddy has said he felt disrespected by the Vikings, and I’m guessing has already made the decision to move on. If Miami comes calling, it’s hard to see him passing that up.
That would leave the Vikings looking at Sam Bradford, and hoping his degenerative knee(s) don’t degenerate any more for at least a couple years.
The Vikings also have to mindful of Cousins’ price tag. The Eagles won the Super Bowl with Nick Foles at QB. But it wasn’t Nick Foles that did it. It was the fact that the Eagles also have the best offensive line in the league, and a defense nearly as good as the Vikings, and better up front. That takes money. A lot of money.
Chris Tomasson reports, among other things, that the Vikings are also putting on hold re-signing their own free agents until they know how much they’re going to spend on a QB, which means if they sign Cousins, they’ll be less likely to sign other free agents they may want back next season, as he could take $30 million of their available $47 million in salary cap space.
Based on the estimates being thrown out there, the Vikings could land Keenum, Justin Pugh and Josh Sitton for roughly what it would cost for just Kirk Cousins.
We can argue about Keenum vs. Cousins statistically, but if signing Keenum also allows the Vikings to sign a couple studs to bolster the offensive line, it’s difficult to see how Cousins makes the most sense.