The NFL Combine is generally useless when assessing the latest crop of NFL Draft prospects. However, the annual weekend in Indianapolis is a wonderful time for the rumor mill, where top information is flung back and forth between cold beers and steaks at St. Elmo’s.
The latest rumor involves the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. Reports surfaced out of Indy suggesting the New York Jets are among the final four in the running for the former Washington Redskins quarterback’s services. The Jets were joined by the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos.
It’s fair to wonder if the Jets are the least desirable landing spot among this reported foursome. Gang Green has the weakest weaponry and might be the least likely of the bunch to make a playoff run in 2018. However, the Jets have one sizable advantage on their side: funds.
Let’s briefly compare the top suitors for Cousins and where the Jets stand among the pack:
New York Jets
The Jets have oodles of salary cap space and could make Cousins the highest-paid quarterback in the league if they wanted to. New York also has been searching for a viable threat at quarterback for a decade, which means desperation could beef up the offer. Cousins would be the best quarterback to wear the green and white since Brett Favre donned the colors for one season. Mike Maccagnan’s lousy history with drafting quarterbacks (Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg) shouldn’t be forgotten.
However, the Jets present probably the worst roster of the four teams in the running. New York’s offense has a couple of inspiring, but unproven playmakers in Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. The running game is modest at best and lacks a top runner. New York’s offensive line is shaky, and needs vast improvements to keep Cousins upright.
The Jets are now projected to have more than $90 million in salary cap space, so they could outbid everyone except Cleveland for Cousins.
The Jets present an enticing situation from a financial standpoint. But Cousins likely wouldn’t be entering a win-now scenario in the Big Apple.
The Cardinals are one of the trickiest teams to figure out. Carson Palmer is gone, and David Johnson is coming off a season-ending elbow injury. But Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald might possess enough allure to attract Cousins. He’s actually 1-8 in nine career games in a dome or a retractable roof, but he’s posted impressive numbers with 2,724 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in those contests.
Arizona is under new management after Bruce Arians retired. Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is now at the helm of a defense that has plenty of dynamic talent. Some fixes along the offensive line and the addition of more receiving depth could put Arizona back in contention with Cousins leading the offense.
The Cardinals are a bit hamstrung financially, however. Arizona has a bit more than $21 million in cap space for the 2018 season.
The Broncos are just three years removed from winning Super Bowl 50, as hard as that is to believe. Denver has been marred by awful quarterback play lately from Trevor Siemian, who shouldn’t be in the league, and Paxton Lynch, who shouldn’t have been a first-round pick. Denver still has the one-two punch of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at receiver, but the offense is a mess aside from the duo.
Defensively, the Broncos are still loaded with talent. We saw this unit carry Denver to a championship with a decrepit Peyton Manning under center. They could certainly do it again with Cousins.
The money tied up in Denver’s defense makes it a bit harder to give Cousins the deal he wants. Denver has approximately $23 million in cap space.
The Vikings could be a quarterback away from making the Super Bowl. Minnesota is extremely well coached by Mike Zimmer and has a championship-caliber defense leading the way. Offensively, Minnesota has Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook, who is coming off of an ACL injury.
Minnesota should enter 2018 as the biggest threat to unseating the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC. Cousins would likely be an upgrade over Case Keenum, who is coming off of one of the flukiest seasons for a quarterback in league history.
A report from SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano suggests Cousins might be leaning toward signing for less to join Minnesota. Who could blame him?
The Vikings are also at an advantage financially, with more than $48 million in projected cap space. That’s the ninth-most in the league and more than every other playoff team from 2017.