After the passing of Monday’s deadline for teams to negotiate long term deals with their franchise tagged players, many around the league were wondering about the fate of Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins. After receiving the franchise tag two years in a row, Cousins is set to hit the open market during the 2018 offseason, and depending on how 2017 goes for the Jets, they may be shopping for a franchise quarterback.
I think signing Cousins — who will be 30 at the start of the 2018 season — to a big-money deal would be ill advised, but obviously all depends on how the 2017 season plays out. I see two different ways this season could unfold and neither bode well for Cousins coming to the Big Apple.
1.) If the Jets finish in the bottom five of the league, they should be in the hunt for one of the blue chip draft prospects at the top of the board. This class has already gotten a lot of hype for how top heavy it potentially could be at quarterback, but let’s slow our roll. Plenty of things can happen between now and then that could shake the board up completely, players could underperform, get injured, or just simply not declare for the draft.
But for what it’s worth at this point, the class seems to be one of the most talented in years. If the Jets are in position to draft a blue chip quarterback, it can change their franchise almost instantly. It would be stupid to pay an insane amount of money for a free agent quarterback when you could get an even better quarterback in the draft on a five year rookie deal.
2.) The Jets finish with a draft position between 6-12, meaning they probably won anywhere between 4-7 games depending on how the rest of the league fills out. In this scenario, Christian Hackenberg showed some promise, but was very inconsistent. Still, getting this team to seven wins would be a big success to a lot of people in the national media.
In this scenario, I see the Jets out of contention for a blue chip quarterback. They could attempt to trade the farm to move up and grab one, but I don’t know if Mike Maccagnan is willing to do that. While this draft is loaded with QB talent, it’s going unreported just how much talent could be in the free agency market as well.
Aside from Cousins, the following quarterbacks will likely be free agents next offseason: Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garapollo, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford. My hunch is that Bradford will be retained by the Vikings, but other than that, the remaining players could potentially be on new teams.
These guys all have their pros and cons, but to me they’re more attractive options than Cousins would be. Matthew Stafford has quietly been one of the NFL’s most consistently good quarterbacks over the last few years even as the Lions have underperformed around him. He is also only 6 months older than Cousins, if you’re going to shell out big money to a 30 year old QB, Stafford is your guy.
Brees is a Hall of Fame talent, it wouldn’t fit in with Maccagnan’s rebuild plan, but Woody Johnson loves to bring in huge stars at the twilight of their career. I wouldn’t make the move if I were the GM, but it’s certainly possible. If the Jets like what they saw from Hackenberg, but not enough to keep him out on the field, maybe two years behind Brees would be the best thing for his development.
As for the other two, Garapollo and Bridgewater, these are young stars with elite potential and several question marks. Garapollo has only started two NFL games, but he dominated them and has been learning under arguably the best to ever play the game. Bridgewater was an ascending talent before a devastating knee injury took him off the field during training camp last season. These players will get big contracts (because they’re quarterbacks) but they won’t, or at least they shouldn’t, be as big as the ones given to the others.
There will be plenty of teams vying for a quarterback next season, but this time, there will be a plethora of options. Out of all of them, I think Cousins has the highest risk associated with him. Throwing big money at a quarterback who hasn’t fully established himself can set your team back another five years and the Jets can’t afford that.
At the start of the 2018 season, one way or another, the Jets need to be supremely confident that their quarterback to lead them for the next few years. If it’s between Cousins and nothing, I’ll go with Kirk, but not after I’ve exhausted all the options above.