Report: Broncos believe Kirk Cousins is headed to Minnesota

Two days ago, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reported that the New York Jets, already believe free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins will sign with the Minnesota Vikings. The Jets have planned to enter themselves into the Cousins sweepstakes.

From Vacchiano: “Despite their willingness to throw a truckload of money and a heavily front-loaded contract at Cousins in an attempt to lure the free agent franchise quarterback to New York, the Jets are worried he might already be destined to sign with the Vikings instead. According to a team source, they are aware of the league-wide speculation that Cousins is ticketed for Minnesota and they are taking that threat seriously after some informal, preliminary talks with his camp this week.”

Monday morning, reports suggested that the Denver Broncos, another team in the race for Cousins, also believe Cousins has already decided on the Vikings. Benjamin Allbright tweeted that he believes Cousins has Minnesota “squarely in his sights.”

For those counting at home, that’s two of Adam Schefter’s final four in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes that believe the former Washington Redskin will wind up in Minnesota.

Minnesota is one of the few teams in the NFL that could afford a contract that Cousins will command. General manager Rick Spielman and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski have recently handed out a number of wealthy extensions to stars like Harrison Smith, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes. Other key assets such as Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks will also be due for extensions soon.

Spielman and Brzezinski have back-loaded many of the extensions already handed out. For example, the cap hit for both Griffen and Joseph gradually increases throughout the life of each contract, which expire in 2022. The combined cap hit for Griffen and Joseph in 2019 is $21 million, more than $6 million fewer than the slated combined cap hit in 2022.

This strategy allows the Vikings to splash on a front-loaded, three-year deal for Cousins. Reports have suggested Cousins is seeking a three-year deal worth a total of $90 million — which sounds impossibly expensive. However, if Cousins is given roughly $35 million or even $40 million in the first year of the deal, his cap number would drop to somewhere between $20 million and $25 million in 2019 and 2020 — all while the salary cap itself continues to inflate.

Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling broke it down further here, explaining a front-loaded, three-year deal for Cousins would still give the Vikings about $50 million in cap space for 2019 and over $90 million in space for 2020.

The point here is that, as many have feared, signing Cousins will not mean the defense falls apart or that the Vikings won’t be able to afford their important young assets outside of the quarterback position. It’s truly unprecedented that a team could afford the highest-paid player in the NFL history and still be in a position to re-sign a bevy of talent that includes Barr, Diggs, Kendricks, Hunter and Trae Waynes. Well, it was unprecedented. Until now.

Cousins to Minnesota is gaining serious steam from both local and national media outlets. At this point, nobody should be surprised if an agreement between Cousins and the Vikings is reported immediately when free agency begins on March 14 at 4 p.m.