Vikings One Step Closer to Kirk Cousins?

One team is now out of contention for the free agent quarterback

After agreeing to terms on an extension with their starting quarterback, count the Jacksonville Jaguars out of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Jaguars signed Blake Bortles to a 3-year, $54 million contract extension that runs through the 2020 season. The deal, through incentives, can reach $66.5 million. Bortles is guaranteed $26.5 million and will earn an average $22 million/season if he reaches his escalators.

By making such a hefty financial commitment to Bortles, it appears the Jaguars will not pursue Cousins in free agency. According to OverTheCap.com, Jacksonville has $21 million in cap space before figuring in Bortles’ contract.

Many considered the Jaguars a frontrunner for Cousins. With Jacksonville out of the mix, other interested teams include the Arizona Cardinals ($22 million in cap room), Buffalo Bills ($29M), Cleveland Browns ($110M), Denver Broncos ($26M), New York Jets ($73M), and the Minnesota Vikings ($49M).

Based on the gargantuan contract and signing bonus he’s expected to receive, teams like the Cardinals, Bills, and Broncos would likely need to release players or make multiple roster moves in order to create the cap space needed to take on Cousins’ enormous salary.

While the Browns and Jets have plenty of financial flexibility, they haven’t experienced the recent success of teams like the Bills or Vikings. In terms of front offices, coaching staffs, and roster personnel, those franchises are likely furthest away from being considered Super Bowl contenders. Cousins has said winning is a factor in his decision.

Speaking of the Bills, when’s the last time a big-time free agent landed in Buffalo? I’m talking bigger than Micah Hyde. Maybe they’re due, but LeSean McCoy is on the older side for a running back (29), and the offensive line has noticeable issues protecting the quarterback.

The Broncos once landed a premier free agent quarterback (Peyton Manning), and built a successful, Super Bowl-winning team around him. However, the last two seasons, they’ve gone 9-7 and 5-11, and their once-elite defense is beginning to age out. Plus, signing Cousins could mean the cap casualty, or casualties, of players like cornerback Aqib Talib or wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Those players are key reasons Denver would be an attractive option in the first place.

At first glance, the Cardinals appear to be a nice destination for Cousins. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in sunny Arizona and play in that gem of a stadium? However, after further consideration, a free agent quarterback has to know that 2018 may be the final season for star receiver Larry Fitzergald. Plus, would a veteran like Cousins want to play under a rookie head coach? There’s David Johnson…but then again, there’s also Dalvin Cook.

The Vikings, who boast the NFL’s top defense and plenty of playmakers on offense, appear to be an attractive and logical fit for the 29-year-old Cousins. There are pros and cons of adding the quarterback, who, for one, will likely command the richest contract in NFL history, but a potential marriage in Minnesota makes a lot of sense.

For now, the Vikings have three unrestricted free agents at the quarterback position. As the franchise awaits a league decision on whether or not the contract of Teddy Bridgewater will toll, the team has until Tuesday, March 6th to apply the franchise or transition tag. If the tag goes unused, the Vikings will be able to begin speaking with free agents on Monday, March 12th.

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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and previously wrote for Rant Sports. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBoarMan.

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  1. I think Cousins is over rated, turn over prone and has not proven to be a winner. If he is so great, why is Washington going to let him walk and trade for Alex Smith. Cousins career start win/loss record including his one wild card game which was a loss to the Packers is 26-31-1. I think the Vikes would be better served going with Case Keenum at an annual savings of $12 to $13 Million and investing that savings in improving the offensive line and keeping the defense solid.

    1. I don’t disagree that Cousins might be a bit overrated, but we have to read a little into those teams Cousins was a part of for the last three seasons. The Redskins have been terrible at running the ball and stopping the run for those three seasons and the passing defense has been pretty sorry too. Name another offensive weapon on Washington’s team. Cousins has been doing it all. The speculation is that he could take an already talented team to the next level, and I believe that too. Minnesota’s defense (and unfortunately, Denver’s as well) is good enough to make Cousins not have to win games alone. The fact that a guy like Keenum could do so well in Minnesota after doing very little for a couple of other teams, should show us how well Cousins could do.

  2. “Many considered the Jaguars a frontrunner for Cousins.”

    Really? My impression was that might have been true before Bortles December surge and the playoffs, but that since then the thinking was that the Jags would bring in someone to compete with Bortles before they made a long-term commitment to him. Said competition would not, of course, have been the most expensive FA options like Brees and Cousins, but either a first-round draft choice or one of the second-tier, non-franchise free agent QB’s available, i.e., Keenum, Taylor, Bradford, Bridgewater or McCarron.

    “Bortles is guaranteed $26.5 million”

    Twenty million of which is due Bortles in 2018, and $6.5 million in 2019 and 2020, thereby leaving the Jags with a manageable out next year and a very easy one in 2020 in case Bortles’ development has plateaued. Smart front office work. Bortles was already guaranteed $19 million this year under his fifth-year option, and the Jags appear likely to offset that extra guaranteed million and then some with one or maybe two more cuts. From what I’m reading, it looks like they could still fill whatever holes they have through the draft and free agency and still have some options at quarterback. Long-time back-up Chad Henne and Bortles are close, so my guess is that the Jags go fishing for a possible long-term alternative either late in the first round if one of the draft’s top QB’s drops, or on Day 2 in the second or third round. If I’m right, that means the Jags will not be playing in the market for Taylor, Bradford and Bridgewater, let alone Keenum.

    Sean, can you do a piece on Spielman’s recent comments on the Vikings NOT planning on spending a lot of money at the QB position in 2018? Do you think he’s just misdirecting us, or is it’s real?

  3. Andrew is correct if Cousins was that great then why is Washington replacing him. He kind of reminds me of Cutler the way he turns ball over and then just not able to correct himself. Case knows the system, if they get Cousins we will have to wait another year while he uses the excuse that he’s trying to learn our system.

    1. Because they couldn’t sign him to a long term deal. They franchised tagged him two years in a row. As for turning the ball over? He’s averaging about 12 int/season since starting full time – the same as Drew Brees the last 3 years and Matt Ryan… As for learning a new system – we have a new offensive co-ordinator so it will be a new system regardless..

      While I agree Cousins is probably a little over hyped, I have no doubt he is an upgrade to Case and while he will be more expensive I doubt it will be the 12 million or so that some people are suggesting.

      My biggest gripe with Case is he rarely puts together a complete game of football. Has some excellent – near perfect halves, but plays ordinary in the other half. Maybe it’s some play calling, but he was a bit hot and cold.