Six years ago, teams lined up for a chance to have quarterback Peyton Manning reject them. Now, with Kirk Cousins hitting the market as the first healthy franchise quarterback on the right side of 30 in the history of free agency, the universe of interested teams sits at four. One eighth of the entire league.
But how many teams are actually interested in Cousins? The Cardinals, as of a week ago, thought Cousins would be too expensive for their budget. Now, they’re back in it. Supposedly.
Here’s a theory/hypothesis/whatever: Only the Jets are seriously interested, and the other three teams are essentially leverage. The Cardinals, Broncos, and Vikings would be willing participants in this dance, because showing interest in Cousins could help them leverage other arrangements.
If Case Keenum wants too much from the Vikings, the Vikings can shrug and say, “We’ll sign Cousins instead.” If A.J. McCarron wants too much from the Cardinals, the Cardinals can shrug and say, “We’ll sign Cousins instead.” If the Browns want too much from the Broncos for the first overall pick in the draft (a possibility that he has been making the rounds), the Broncos can shrug and say, “We’ll sign Cousins instead.”
Some think the Jets will offer the most to Cousins, but that he’ll choose to go somewhere else. In the end, the gap between the Jets and everyone else may be too big to justify saying no to New York.
Really, any team would be interested in Cousins if the price were low enough. The fact that the Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have emerged as finalists suggests that they’ve essentially been pre-qualified via intended offers that are in the vicinity of the ballpark of what Cousins wants.
Ultimately, however, it may be only two teams that are seriously motivated to sign him. Or maybe it’s only one, with the Jets being forced to pay more than they want under the threat that Cousins will choose a better team.