With the 49ers committed to their franchise rebuild with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a new front-runner has emerged as a threat to swoop in and sign Kirk Cousins in free agency.
Redskins fans, say hello to John Elway and the Denver Broncos.
Some things are known, like the Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL but seriously lack a quarterback. After the season, Broncos GM Elway said that his team must get better at the QB position, and expect the former MVP and Super Bowl winner to make a franchise passer the top of his to-do list.
Been asked. Yes I believe #Broncos will pursue Cousins. But there will be a Plan B and C this time around. Won't be like chase for Manning. But yes they will pursue him— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) January 4, 2018
A few years back, Elway successfully recruited free agent Peyton Manning to Denver, and a few seasons later, the Broncos won a Super Bowl.
Might Elway try the same recruitment with Kirk Cousins? Of course he might.
That said, there are some factors that could limit the Broncos ability to go after Cousins.
- Salary Cap 101 - A Super Bowl winner just two seasons ago, the Broncos bottomed out this year with a 5-11 record. Largely due to total incompetence at QB between Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, Denver still had a good defense despite the bad record. Right now, the Broncos only have about $27 million under the salary cap for 2018. Considering Cousins is expected to command at least $26 million per year on a new deal, Denver could not afford to pay the Redskins passer. That said, Elway could restructure or cut other players to make more room. Broncos running back C.J. Anderson is due $4.5 million in 2018, with nothing guaranteed. Anderson has been productive for Denver, but running backs don't carry nearly the same importance as quarterbacks. Another contract to watch: Cornerback Aqib Talib is due $12 million in 2018, but if the team wanted to release him, would only take a $1 million cap penalty. Talib has been a great player in Denver, but consider that in 2017, even with one of the league's best defenses, the Broncos only won five games. Takeaway: Elway does not have the salary cap space to sign Cousins right now, but that can change.
- Playing tag - Before fans totally freak out about losing Kirk Cousins, remember the Redskins can still have something to do with the outcome. As the organization has done for two seasons now, Washington could put a third-straight franchise tag on Cousins. It would carry a preposterous $34 million price tag, but that would all but guarantee Cousins stays in the Burgundy and Gold for 2018. Another option that seems to be very much in play would be a transition tag. The cost is still high but more manageable at $29 million, though it allows Cousins to negotiate with other teams and test his value in the market place. Whatever deal Cousins finds, the Redskins can then match. Unlikely, but the Redskins also are in a situation where the team has exclusive negotiating rights with Cousins until March. Though the QB made clear he's in no hurry to talk, perhaps Washington could offer an overwhelming multi-year contract to Cousins and shut all of this speculation down. Takeaway: A transition tag seems likely, so there's a good chance the Redskins hang on to Cousins at least for 2018, regardless what Denver tries to do.
The rumors surrounding Cousins and the Broncos won't slow down over the next two months, unless Elway makes a different move before free agency opens. The biggest thing for Redskins fans to monitor is if Denver starts to shed contracts and free up space under their salary cap. Until the Broncos have more cap room, the Cousins talk is just noise.
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