Some of the biggest free agents in the NFL offseason have already been taken off the board before contracts can even be officially signed.
We’ve already seen the top three quarterbacks reportedly agree to deals, while several other key players have seemingly made their decision during the legal tampering period, ahead of the start of the new league year on Wednesday when parties can put pen to paper.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the noteworthy signings and how they’ll affect the league’s landscape.
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Unsurprisingly, Cousins’ average annual salary of $28.6m sets a new benchmark in the NFL by surpassing the $27.5m Jimmy Garoppolo netted in his recent deal. The more interesting nugget is that Cousins’ contract will be fully guaranteed, which is perhaps an indication of how much leverage he held after Case Keenum was taken out of play by Denver.
They now have a quarterback that could potentially be their franchise cornerstone, adding the 29-year-old to a roster which was already stocked with enough talent to be a Super Bowl contender.
Though it’s not a lock Cousins will be a massive upgrade over Keenum, his body of work with Washington gives him both a safe floor and a high ceiling. And with the weapons around him on offence – Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook – and one of the league’s best defences on the other side of the ball, Minnesota have every reason to be excited for the present and future.
They’ll just have to hope now that they made the right decision, considering the money they handed out and the other quarterback options they passed over.
BRONCOS MAKE THEIR CASE
While other teams set their sights on Cousins, Denver were apparently content to roll with Keenum at a much cheaper price tag.
The details of the contract aren’t fully known, but reports have claimed it will be a two-year deal worth around $18m per season – about a $10m difference from what Cousins will receive.
A glass-half empty perspective on the deal for Denver is that they paid for past production – Keenum’s outlier 2017 season – instead of projecting future performance, because even with the difference to Cousins’ figure, $18m is a significant chunk to give to a quarterback who may not be better than average.
But another way to look at this for the Broncos is that they may have just gotten a quarterback who isn’t that far off from Cousins, but at a frugal rate, with the difference in money allowing them to pursue another key contributor in free agency.
And with the deal appearing to be a short one, they’re not so committed that they can’t use the number five overall pick in April’s draft to tab a quarterback prospect they like.
Of the two big-time wide receivers to find new homes, the Chicago Bears may have done better in securing their playmaker.
Robinson is coming back from a torn ACL suffered in Week 1 last season, but he’s already proven he can produce elite numbers for a season, having hauled in 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015. And that was with Blake Bortles throwing him the ball.
Watkins, on the other hand, carries a reputation which may surpass his abilities.
As talented as the former fourth overall pick is, he’s been wildly inconsistent over his career, failing to top 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons.
Kansas City will unquestionably be fun to watch with Patrick Mahomes slinging the ball and Watkins and Tyreek Hill burning rubber down the field, but fun doesn’t necessarily mean effective.
If Robinson returns to his full health and form, the Bears may have gotten the better receiver at a better price.
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