And then there was four…
Today, ESPN’s Adam Schefter revealed that the biggest name expected to move on the free agent market QB Kirk Cousins has a list narrowed to just four teams. That is the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, and Minnesota Vikings.
Not included are the Cleveland Browns, who now appear out of the race.
4. Arizona Cardinals
Rumblings of Cousins heading to the desert increased yesterday when Cousins shared a picture on Instagram with the team’s top target Larry Fitzgerald:
If David Johnson can come back from injury without any restrictions, the acquisition of Cousins will make Arizona highly competitive in what looks like a hellacious NFC West. Arizona does not appear today as good of a fit as the other three teams. Cousins would be exposed to a downgraded offensive line that ranked 29th in the NFL last year, and with the money he will demand, they will be unable to add any significant help to protect him. The destination would have also been more appealing if Bruce Arians was still in charge.
3. New York Jets
Don’t be surprised if Cousins is wearing green and white in the Big Apple come September. The Jets are reportedly “willing to pay whatever it takes” to become the new home for Captain Kirk. The Jets can certainly do that, and with a massive amount of cap space, can add more than just Cousins this offseason. If so, they may need to bolster the offensive line that (like Arizona) is not going to do Cousins any favors. The Jets were better than anyone could have imagined a season ago and if they are able to bring in Cousins, and not totally botch the sixth pick in the draft, the J-E-T-S could be well on their way to securing a Wild Card position. A key to watch here: Cousins has made it clear that he would enjoy playing for new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. He has been a fan of Bates since 2012 when he first met him, adding:
“Both Mike, Kyle [Shanahan], that whole system I played in. Sean McVay comes from that tree. I just think so highly of them as play callers, as offensive gurus if you will. Because Jeremy comes from that tree, it would be exciting to think about working with someone like that, knowing how important Xs and Os and game planning is and having the right play caller.”
2. Minnesota Vikings
With all three of the Vikings QBs – Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater – set to hit the market, Cousins could be heading north. If this list was simply ranking the best fits for next season, the Vikings would absolutely be ranked number one. The Vikings with Cousins are a favorite to win the Super Bowl. This fit would instantly give Cousins his most talented roster to date but would come with immense pressure. Keenum was a legit MVP candidate a season ago and had many believing the city of Minneapolis would be hosting the Super Bowl with their own team involved. Not only will the fans of the Purple People Eaters be expecting Cousins to lead them back to the NFC Championship Game, they will expect him to win it as he is considered superior to Keenum. If he is up to the task, heading to Minnesota should be ideal inheriting one of the most talented defenses in the league.
As for the offense, it will be cookin’:
1. Denver Broncos
They have to be the favorite, right? And they should be. Cousins joining the Broncos just makes too much sense. In particular, the influence of John Elway has to set the Broncos apart from the pack. Denver showed last season how good their defense STILL is, led by arguably the best defensive player in the league, Von Miller. In 2017, the defense ranked top 5 against the pass, rush and in yards. The initial pressure on Cousins would be minimal stepping into a position that was abysmal a year ago behind Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch (bust). The Broncos can also provide him with a solid receiving corp, and a running game to create an effective play-action game. The offensive line – again – will be an issue – 30th last season – therefore, that is where the fifth overall pick should be used on.
If Cosuins is to look at the bigger picture, Denver is where he can have the most sucess for the longest time. Unlike with Minnesota (NFC) where he will have to deal with a plethora of young, talented teams for years to come, there is a path in the AFC that can be envisioned. With Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady – we think – getting older and with no current replacement plan in place, the AFC Championship Game may be hosted at Mile High Stadium more than once in the next five years.