The only thing we know for certain right now about Kirk Cousins is that he isn’t going to be a Washington Redskins quarterback come March 14.
Oh, and that Cousins is going to get paid more money than any quarterback has ever received before.
The Redskins’ trade for Alex Smith on Tuesday, reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN, means Cousins will hit the open market this offseason. The 29-year-old has played under the franchise tag for the past two seasons, the only quarterback in NFL history to do so.
With Cousins approaching free agency once again, and a host of suitors lining up to sign him, the Redskins felt they couldn’t afford to keep Cousins even if he had wanted to stay according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated. They will save money on Smith despite giving him a four-year contract extension with $71 million guaranteed. Washington paid a heavy price, though, for a 33-year-old who the Chiefs would probably have released anyway, sending highly rated cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick to Kansas City.
Cousins should be able to cash in at a historic level this spring. While the prospect of linking up with Kyle Shanahan at the 49ers disappeared when they traded for Jimmy Garoppolo, there are still a large number of quarterback-needy teams who will likely compete against each other to push up his value.
NFL.com lists probably the most attractive option first: The chance to play under a legendary quarterback in John Elway at the Denver Broncos. With a defense that remains strong, the Broncos will be in win-now mode if they can convince Cousins to move west.
The other options are plentiful but, uh, mixed to say the least. Chris Wesseling thinks the new York Jets and their unique brand of dysfunction could be in for Cousins. So could the Arizona Cardinals and the Buffalo Bills, both of which would be reasonable landing spots if Cousins wants to contend for the playoffs and possibly even Super Bowls in the future. The Vikings would be instant favorites to come out of the NFC next year if Cousins signed for them. Minnesota has three quarterbacks about to hit free agency but no new offensive coordinator, as of yet.
Then there’s the truly horrifying prospect of ending up at the Cleveland Browns, a franchise that has won one game in the past two seasons. Orange and Brown Report, the Browns blog, notes the franchise has around $117 million in salary cap space to eat up on a free-agent quarterback.
Smith joked about the prospect of going to the Browns on Tuesday. "I haven't even thought about that," he told the Dan Patrick Show in quotes reported by Cleveland.com. "They've [the Browns] got nowhere to go but up. 1-31 over the last 2 years just sounds amazing."
Smith has far better choices than the Browns. It’s up to Elway to save him from professional football’s version of eternal purgatory.