- Patrick McDermott/Getty
- Kirk Cousins is expected to hit free agency this offseason and should become the most prized player on the market.
- Good quarterbacks rarely hit free agency in their primes, so Cousins is expected to start a bidding war among at least five teams.
- Cousins’ next contract is expected to break records in guaranteed money and perhaps annual average.
It’s rare to see a star quarterback hit free agency in his prime, and it’s a big reason why NFL free agency will revolve around Kirk Cousins this offseason.
After playing two straight seasons on the franchise tag, Cousins is set to hit free agency, seemingly no longer in the Washington Redskins’ plans after they completed a trade for Alex Smith in January.
On Wednesday, Doug Williams, the Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel, said the team hasn’t considered tagging him for a third straight season.
With Cousins set to become an unrestricted free agent, there will be no shortage of teams vying for his services, and it should create a bidding war that will almost surely make Cousins the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Several teams are already said to be interested in Cousins – the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, and possibly more. For any one of them to lure the Pro Bowl quarterback, they’ll have to open up their pockets.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell’s guide to potential contract offers for Cousins offered some hints at what could be a record pay day. Barnwell suggested that Cousins’ camp could demand an annual average of $30 million and more than the record-setting $60 million guaranteed that Matthew Stafford got from the Detroit Lions last year.
There has already been chatter that the New York Jets could front-load an offer to pay Cousins $60 million in the first year of a contract. That would be unprecedented in the NFL, but it’s a sign of how desperate teams are for a good quarterback in his prime.
ESPN’s NFL insiders predicted Cousins could land anywhere between $70 – $90 million in guaranteed money on his next contract.
Each of the expected interested teams have cases to make for Cousins. The Jets and Browns can offer cap space and blank slates with which to build around Cousins. The Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals can all offer Cousins the chance to be the missing link, the quarterback to tie together skilled playmakers and stingy defenses.
Consider how many prime quarterbacks ever hit unrestricted free agency. Peyton Manning took a free agency tour in 2012 before signing with the Denver Broncos, but he was already 36 and coming off a series of neck injuries. He signed a five-year, $96 million deal.
Drew Brees hit free agency in 2006, when he was 27, and signed a six-year, $60 million deal. Contracts have only skied since then.
Even Brock Osweiler commanded a four-year, $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed from the Houston Texans in 2016, and that was after a solid, but unspectacular seven-game stretch with the Broncos the season before.
It’s easy to see why Cousins, who has completed an average of 67% of his passes, thrown over 4,000 yards, and thrown 81 touchdowns to 36 interceptions the past three years, should command a record-setting deal.
Cousins is expected to have his pick of the litter this March, and it seems all interested teams will be willing to offer bank-breaking contracts to land him.