Hardly ever do franchise quarterbacks hit the open market during the prime of their careers, but that’s exactly what we’re about to see with Kirk Cousins this offseason.
There will be no shortage of teams vying for his services as Cousins is expected to have his pick from several suitors.
Let’s take a look at likely destinations:
No team is primed for a bigger jump next season with the addition of a steady hand at quarterback than the Broncos. Already strong on the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos would again be in contention with Cousins, who would be a massive upgrade over Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler.
Von Miller thinks Kirk Cousins could take the Broncos to the next level. pic.twitter.com/mFNOPBQV64— ESPN (@espn) January 31, 2018
It would make more sense for the Browns to draft their quarterback of the future with the number one overall pick, but if they aren’t in love with any of the prospects, they have an abundance of salary cap space to splurge on Cousins and climb out of the league’s basement.
Tyrod Taylor has been given a raw deal in Buffalo, but there’s no denying Cousins would be an upgrade over the dual-threat quarterback. It’s obvious the Bills want to move on from Taylor and Nathan Peterman doesn’t look like the answer, but there are few weapons in the passing game for Cousins to work with.
Carson Palmer’s retirement leaves a sizeable hole under centre and while Cousins would have been a perfect pairing with Bruce Arians, the former head coach is gone as well. Still, new coach Steve Wilks has vowed to be “very active and aggressive” in free agency to acquire their next quarterback.
New York Jets
Like Cleveland, the Jets could choose to get their quarterback through the draft as they own the sixth overall pick. They also have plenty of cap space to use however and Cousins would immediately solve a problem that has plagued the franchise for years and years.
This would have seemed more likely a few weeks ago, before Blake Bortles nearly toppled New England in the AFC Championship Game and then got wrist surgery, complicating his fifth-year option picked up by the Jaguars for $19 million next season. It looks like Bortles is their guy for right now.
Case Keenum helped the Vikings reach the NFC Championship Game, but it’s unclear how Minnesota feel about the journeyman quarterback. Though Keenum has proven he’s a starter in the league, an upgrade at quarterback with this current roster, could mean a deeper run and an improved shot at a title.
The two best quarterbacks that were likely to be available this offseason have now become intertwined.
Smith will also reportedly sign a four-year extension worth $94 million, with $71m in guaranteed money.
This obviously means Kirk Cousins’ days in Washington are numbered as he’ll now hit free agency as a much sought-after commodity who will be pursued by several quarterback-starved teams.
But while Washington swap one established quarterback for another, Kansas City are now expected to hand over the reins to their young wildcard.
Here’s how the trade looks for both teams:
Washington’s shift change
Whatever you think of Cousins – and opinions on him can vary wildly depending on who you ask – the gap between him and Smith isn’t sizeable in either direction.
Smith, of course, is coming off a much better year in which he led the league with a 104.7 passer rating – compared to 93.9 for Cousins – and is much safer with the ball in his hands, tied for seventh all-time in career interception rate at 2.1 per cent.
But he’s also four years older than the 29-year-old Cousins and owns a 2-5 record in the playoffs. Cousins’ impressive 2015 campaign, in which he boasted a career-best passer rating of 101.6, may well be an outlier and he may be closer to the quarterback we saw this past season (93.9 passer rating), but it’s not ridiculous to believe his best days could be ahead of him in another setting.
And it’s also fair to wonder how much of Smith’s recent success in Kansas City can be attributed to the playmakers he had around him and Andy Reid’s innovative offensive scheme, which maximised his strengths and negated his weaknesses.
In Andy Reid's offense Smith was basically a screen and shot-play passer.— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) January 31, 2018
In Gruden's offense Cousins was expected to do a lot more work past the line of scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/YNKiCj34gS
Where this trade works in Washington’s favour is in the salary cap. Even with Smith’s rich extension, the damage done to Washington’s cap won’t hamstring the team as much as Cousins’ next contract. There’s no doubt that Cousins will become the highest-paid player in NFL history this offseason, potentially commanding $30m or more in annual salary. The $7m saved annually on Smith can go to shoring up other parts of the roster.
Washington, however, had to give up a third-round pick and a useful cornerback in Fuller to solidify their position, so it’s not a one-for-one quarterback swap. And even forgiving Washington’s botched negotiations with Cousins the past couple years, the rosiest outlook for this trade translates to minimal gains in the short term.
It’s Mahomes time
Smith’s fate was sealed the second the Chiefs traded up in last year’s draft to select Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick. The only question was when the switch would be made from the veteran to the young gunslinger.
It looks like Kansas City are done waiting. With Smith gone, Mahomes is now in line to inherit an offence that racked up the fifth-most yards (375.4 per game) and sixth-most points (25.9) in the league this season.
The stylistic differences between Smith’s game and Mahomes’ game are drastic. While Smith has built a reputation as a consistent, high-floor passer, Mahomes’ ceiling is exponentially higher due to his monster arm and quick-strike ability.
However, the trade-off for Mahomes’ vast potential is a greater likelihood of mistakes and turnovers. It’ll be interesting to see if the Chiefs let Mahomes rip it without any training wheels, or Reid tailors a system to his talents that takes some control out of his hands.
Either way, Kansas City can literally afford to wait for Mahomes to develop. For a team that’s good enough to make the playoffs, having your starting quarterback on a rookie contract is a massive luxury.
The Chiefs may not be better off in the short term, but their ceiling was hard-capped with Smith and with this trade, they at least open up more possibilities.
Tom Brady is already in a class of his own, but the New England Patriots quarterback can continue distancing himself from other NFL legends when he faces the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Brady is vying for his sixth title and could, in the process, pick up Super Bowl MVP honours for the fifth time. Only Joe Montana is close with three Super Bowl MVPs, while Terry Bradshaw, Eli Manning and Bart Starr are tied with two.
Here’s a look at the five greatest Super Bowl MVP performances in NFL history, with none other than the GOAT kicking off the list.
Tom Brady, Super Bowl LI (2017)
Brady has won some of the most memorable games while producing some of the most clutch efforts, but the crown jewel of his storied career is the masterpiece he put together in last year’s Super Bowl.
With the Patriots’ hopes looking bleak as they trailed 28-3 in the third quarter to the Atlanta Falcons, Brady rose to the challenge and led New England to a 34-28 win for the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Stats: 43-of-62, 466 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 95.2 passer rating
Steve Young, Super Bowl XXIX (1995)
It’s hard to have a better stat line than the one Young put up when he and the San Francisco 49ers crushed the San Diego Chargers 49-26.
The southpaw quarterback torched the Chargers for 325 yards and six touchdowns, which remains a Super Bowl record, as San Francisco found the end zone on their first drives and never looked back.
Final stats: 24-of-36, 325 yards, 6 TD, 134.8 passer rating
Joe Montana, Super Bowl XXIV (1990)
Before Brady took over the title of greatest ever, the quarterback most synonymous with winning was Montana.
The San Francisco 49ers legend was a perfect 4-0 in Super Bowls and his best performance came in a 55-10 blowout victory over the Denver Broncos, which is the most lopsided Super Bowl in history.
Montana tossed five touchdowns before heading to the sidelines in the fourth quarter with the title wrapped up.
Stats: 22-of-29, 297 yards, 5 TD, 147.6 passer rating
Doug Williams, Super Bowl XXII (1988)
Williams didn’t just make history by being the first black starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl, he also engineered one of the most dominant attacks in Super Bowl history.
He threw for 228 yards and four touchdowns in the second quarter alone as Washington put up a jaw-dropping 35 points in the period, en route to a more than comfortable 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos.
Stats: 18-of-29, 340 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 127.9 passer rating
Jerry Rice, Super Bowl XXIII (1989)
Quarterbacks often get the glory, but in Super Bowl XXIII, Rice would not be denied the MVP as one of the greatest football players ever put on a spectacular show.
With the San Francisco 49ers battling back late, Rice caught five passes for 109 yards in the fourth quarter, including the game-tying touchdown, while also setting up John Taylor’s winning score in the 20-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stats: 11 REC, 215 yards, 1 TD