Jimmy Garoppolo might not be the highest-paid player in the NFL for long. ESPN’s Rich Cimini is reporting the New York Jets are offering a blank check for soon-to-be free agent Kirk Cousins. The game of franchise tagging is apparently over for the quarterback after the Washington Redskins traded for former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
There has been speculation regarding possible destinations for the former Pro Bowler. Most of the noise has circulated around the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns.
Leave it to the Jets to offer the keys to the empire to one of the league’s more prolific passers.
Cousins made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career in 2016, when he threw for nearly 5,000 yards, with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Those numbers dipped last season—4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions—due to injuries and after losing his favorite receiver, Pierre Garcon, to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Jets are capable of maintaining their reputation as a tough out for any team with Josh McCown behind center. He was one of the few surprises last season in leading the team to wins over three playoff teams—the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. Another positive takeaway is the fact that many of their losses were decided by one score. In a year when they were supposed to be tanking, they still managed to be competitive against some of the best teams in the league.
With McCown turning 39 years old in July, the Jets aren’t in a position to build their future around the veteran journeyman. That leaves them with two options: Draft a quarterback or go after a proven veteran, Cousins.
Given the Jets’ track record in drafting quarterbacks, it’s easy to see why option No. 2 appears to be the sticking point right now.
Cousins should provide the offense a significant upgrade at the most important position on the field, while allowing general manager Mike Maccagnan to use the No. 6 spot in the draft to select a dynamic playmaker to address another need on the team. There isn’t a quarterback in existence to cure all of the Jets’ problems. Even with Cousins, they’re going to have to upgrade around him to increase his odds of being successful.
But first comes the difficult task of convincing Cousins to sign. The 29-year-old signal caller has already said that money wouldn’t be the only factor in his decision. He is also looking for the team that puts him in the best position to win games.
“Is money a part of it? Sure. Is it the only thing? No,” said Cousins during an appearance on PFT Live. “It is about winning, and that’s what I want more than anything, so I’m going to be willing to make sacrifices or do what has to be done to make sure I’m in the best possible position to win, and that’s what the focus is going to be.”
Joining a Jet team that has been to the postseason only twice in the last decade doesn’t seem too promising. The Jets still have plenty of missing pieces, and they play the New England Patriots twice a year.
All of the possibilities of Cousins in a Jet uniform are intriguing, but so have many others over the years—Brett Favre, Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez. None of those experiments panned out.
Both Maccagnan’s and head coach Todd Bowles’ jobs might depend on 2018 being different.