With less than two weeks to go until the NFL free agency window opens, the rumor mill is in full swing and the Denver Broncos are reportedly set to put all their eggs in a Kirk Cousins–shaped basket.
The 29-year-old is arguably the pick of this year’s free agent class, following a season in which he threw 4,093 yards, with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for the Washington Redskins.
According to Yahoo Sports, the Denver Broncos have identified the quarterback as their “all-in” target but could have some work to do convince Cousins to join them and get creative to free some salary cap room.
As far as the latter is concerned, Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported sources have suggested the Broncos have weighed the option to open up between $40 million and $50 million in cap space for this offseason.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday at the NFL draft combine in Indianapolis, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway said the team was going to “explore all options” but they could face competition to land Cousins.
The length of the contract and the overall guaranteed money could prove decisive factors, as Cousins could push for a three- or four-year deal, as opposed to the traditional seven-year deal normally signed by franchise quarterbacks.
The Cleveland Browns, the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets are all understood to be in the race for the Illinois native.
Such a deal would potentially allow Cousins the opportunity to return to the negotiating table in a few years, shortly before his 32nd or 33rd birthday. Conversely, a shorter-than-usual contract could make the quarterback an unattractive proposition for some franchises, as Cousins could be able to sign a short-term contract for maximum money, before repeating the tricks in a couple of years.
Last week, the Jets emerged as the front-runners to land the quarterback, after ESPN's Rich Cimini revealed New York was willing to pay "whatever it takes" to lure the 29-year-old to the MetLife Stadium ahead of next year.
According to overthecap.com, the Jets currently boast $90.1 million in salary-cap space, after they released Muhammad Wilkerson just two years into his contract on Thursday.
Jets coach Todd Bowles seemed to suggest the franchise was actively looking to sign Cousins but was noncommittal over their chances.
“We have a plan, A, B, and C,” Bowles said, as reported by the New York Post.
“Obviously we have some things with free agency and the draft coming up that we’d like to have, that we’re going to look for, obviously without divulging any plans. But we’ll see how they play out. But we have plans for each situation.”
Earlier this month, Pro Football Talk suggested the Jets could even go as far as guaranteeing the entire contract, an almost unheard of option as far as long-term deals in the NFL are concerned.
The Browns, on the other hand, have even more projected cap space than the Jets, but the Redskins’ quarterback has made clear he wants to join a team that could guarantee him instant success, which has made the Broncos and the Vikings favorites to land him.
However, while the Vikings could be an attractive propositions after reaching the NFC Championship game last season, the Broncos had the same 5-11 record shared by the Jets.
Although players can’t officially sign deals until March 14, teams will be allowed to speak to free agents and their representatives from two days earlier and the Redskins have until March 6 to slap a transition or franchise tag on one of their players, as they did with Cousins for the last two seasons.