Kirk Cousins May End Up in New York. Will Jimmy Graham Join Him?
By George Kurtz
The next big date on the NFL calendar will be March 14, the start of free agency. The first domino has fell when Kansas City traded Alex Smith to Washington for a third-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft and CB Kendall Fuller (this trade won’t be official until March 14).
It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Smith was dealt. This had been rumored since training camp once the Chiefs moved up in the 2017 NFL Draft to select Patrick Mahomes. The team loved what they saw out of him in camp that and believed he was ready to start last season. This trade is the best of both worlds for K.C. They get a second day pick and a good player in return for Smith and trade him out of the conference, to a team they likely won’t have to worry about facing in a game of any consequence other than the Super Bowl.
As for Washington, this trade alleviated their conundrum about what to do with Kirk Cousins. They really couldn’t afford to place the franchise tag on him once again as that would’ve cost the team more than $34 million against the salary cap for one player. We can argue all we want about who won this deal, but all that matters is that Cousins will be one of the most sought after players when free agency starts. With that in mind, here are my Top 8 NFL free agents this season and were they may be heading.
Drew Brees: With all the talk about Cousins, everyone sort of forgets that Brees is also a free agent. He’s a future Hall of Famer and although he may not quite be the player he once was, he’s still a Top 10 QB in the NFL and could help just about any franchise. Still, he’s not going anywhere, not unless the Saints lowball him and it’s not like they have a QB in waiting to do so. Let’s face it, if not for a small miracle, it’s Brees playing in the Super Bowl this weekend. There is also no way he would leave the Saints for a re-building team as he is certainly in win-now mode. Sure, I could see Denver making a play for him, but it would be a shock to see him playing in any other uniform other than the Saints next season.
Destination: New Orleans
Le’Veon Bell: I would have no doubt that Bell would be moving on from Pittsburgh had Ben Roethlisberger announced that he was retiring. Well, he’s not, and the Steelers have to believe they still have the personnel to make a Super Bowl run. If Ryan Shazier had not suffered the spinal injury, it may be the Steelers who were representing the AFC this year against Philadelphia and not New England. Bell is a difference maker. Have we ever seen a running back with his patience in the backfield? The Steelers want him back, but Bell wants a huge contract. He wants to set the market for RBs. The Steelers could place the franchise tag on him but that would give him a contract of $14.5 million for next season. Are the Steelers willing to give Bell a contract with guaranteed money in excess of $40 million? That really is the question here. I’m going to say yes but if not, I would look for the Raiders to make a splash here.
Kirk Cousins: This is the one QB we know will be lining up for a different team in 2018. By my count there are nine teams that could be in the QB market (Browns, Jaguars, Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Broncos, Vikings, Giants, Cardinals). Let’s take these one by one. The Browns have the cap room to make Cousins the highest paid player in the game and do have some offensive options that might intrigue him, but perhaps they want to start from scratch and draft their own QB with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft this April. They could be scary, however, if they were to sign Cousins and then use the first and fourth overall picks to select the best players on their board. The Jaguars seem likely to stick with Blake Bortles, maybe because his wrist surgery will leave them no option, as his roster bonus will kick in on March 14. The Jags will be stuck with his contract either way as he may not be recovered from surgery and thus can’t be released.
The Bills look like they will draft their next QB and I don’t think Cousins wants to play there anyway. Miami will give Ryan Tannehill another shot behind center. The Jets also have the money to get it done and Cousins doesn’t seem to be afraid to play under the media microscope in New York. Can the Broncos make it work under the salary cap? The Vikings are intriguing as the trio of Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, and Case Keenum are all free agents, but they also have several of their top players who are due for new contracts over the next few seasons and may not want to give out so much money to Cousins. The Giants will draft their future QB with the second overall pick in the draft. The Cardinals may not have the receiving weapons to entice Cousins to play there. It’s the Jets or Broncos for me. The Broncos may intrigue Cousins more, as they have a better chance to be competitive right off the bat, but Cousins may have to take less money than he would get from the Jets. What’s more important to him, money or winning?
There are 3 universal problems the Dolphins have had since Dan Marino's retirement. 1. Investing big in the wrong QBs. 2. Constant change, which produces collateral loss 3. Letting good players leave the organization over foolishness. Jarvis Landry might fall into category three. pic.twitter.com/S2luxc1Hzm
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) February 13, 2018
Jarvis Landry: I always find it curious when as soon as a player reaches free agency, we hear all of this negative press about him. He doesn’t listen to coaches, doesn’t run precise routes, shows up late to meetings, etc. Maybe it’s just me being a conspiracy theorist but I wonder if this is the team’s PR department at work. If they say enough negative things about him, perhaps they can keep his contract to a reasonable level. Landry may not offer much in terms of run after the catch ability, but he is a reception machine. He will get paid. The Jets and Bills could make a play to keep him in the division.
Allen Robinson: If A-Rob was not coming off a torn ACL but had a productive season for the Jaguars I would have no doubt that he would be ready to break the bank this offseason. Instead, he may have to settle for a one-year make good contract. Jacksonville doesn’t have loads of cap space and Marquise Lee is also a free agent. They may only be able to keep one and A-Rob may be too expensive.
DeMarcus Lawrence: He had more sacks last season than his previous three seasons combined. Yeah, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence that it comes in a contract year. It doesn’t matter though, everyone needs pass rushers and Dallas can’t afford, figuratively or literally, to let him leave. They will try to sign him to a long-term deal but if that fails, they will place the franchise tag on him. He isn’t going anywhere.
Jimmy Graham: He is not the weapon he used to be with New Orleans, but when used properly is one of the biggest red zone threats in the NFL. The problem for teams interested in his services will be, what exactly is that worth? Is Trey Burton a better overall and cheaper option? Graham may not find the market for his services as robust as he expects it to be. If the Jets sign Cousins, Graham may follow, but until that happens New York may be on the outside looking in.
Ezekiel Ansah: He will be compared to Lawrence but at 28 years of age he’s not going to be able to command quite the same contract and the Lions may feel it isn’t wise to place the franchise tag on him. It’s so tough to let pass rusher leave via free agency in today’s game and it’s not like the Lions are loaded with other options. Still, I think they will move on here and spend their money someplace else.
Destination: San Francisco