While most of the attention was focused on New England and Philadelphia this week, the rest of the thirty teams in the National Football League were in the midst of their offseason woes.
Yet two teams made a deal that involves multiple quarterback changing homes next season, and may have created consequences that could shake the dynamics of the league altogether moving forward.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was traded to the Washington Redskins on a four-year, $74 million dollar deal Tuesday evening, leaving behind an Andy Reid-led system that enabled his play style, as well as monster targets in both tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill at his disposal. Smith, who has largely been referred to as mediocre for the duration of his football career, now joins a Washington team that finished 7-9 this past season and has been in a relative mode of mediocrity for the past decade as well. I imagine their team next fall will look relatively the same as it has in years past- relying on the principles of the West Coast offense from head coach Jay Gruden and letting Smith utilize his relatively weak arm strength to complete short throws to receiver Jamison Crowder and tight end Jordan Reed.
But the real person I care about in this deal isn’t Smith at all. It’s the guy whose job he just took.
Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick taken in the quarterback heavy draft of 2011 that saw the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson taken prior, turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the franchise after proving himself better than Griffin during his tenure as a starter in the 2015 season. Since that season, Cousins has mostly leveled off- but has shown to be a relatively valuable starting quarterback in a league where the latter certainly is a dime a dozen. He has slowly but surely been rising the ranks of football experts each season who believe him to have “franchise level” talent, and is often the subject of analyst discussion on players who could make a quick impact on a roster that is just a few pieces away from taking the next step.
This to the dealings of Redskins owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen, who have proven to be some of the worst negotiators in the league over the past three years. After receiving the franchise tag the past two seasons and publicly facing scrutiny from the organization about the contract negotiations, Cousins seemed discontent with his inability to receive a long-term contract in a time period where every quarterback that hits free agency becomes the league’s highest paid player within just a few days.
All of that will soon change, as Cousins is expected be released into the open free agent market once the league season starts back up again on March 14th (the same date in which the Smith trade will become official) and will become one of the first “big name” unrestricted free agent quarterbacks the league has seen in this decade. The real question remains however- where in the world will Cousins end up?
Could it be in Denver- a team with a historically good defense two seasons prior who has seen limited growth from both Trevor Simeon and Paxton Lynch during their lackluster campaign this fall? John Elway has already lured one free agent quarterback into the Mile High City over the past few years, a deal which couldn’t have worked out any better for the franchise. Or could it be a team higher on the draft board such as Cleveland or New York? After all, the Browns are salivating at any chance to get a truly talented quarterback after years of terrible decisions at the position, and New York seems prepared to part ways with Eli Manning after the new regime of head coach Pat Shurmur is fully installed in the Meadowlands. A signing like this would enable both teams to focus on other needs in the draft this spring, patching multiple holes and sparing them the toughest part of drafting a quarterback these days- letting him grow. It could even be a wildcard team such as Minnesota- who may lose both Case Keenum and Sam Bradford in free agency as well as choose to cut ties with Teddy Bridgewater after a horrific knee injury left him sidelined for nearly two full seasons. Would adding Cousins bolster the offense even more, and allow the Vikings and their phenomenal defense the chance to become the clear favorites in the conference for the next few seasons?
A unique opportunity awaits Kirk over the next few months, and I believe it’s one of the most intriguing storylines heading into the offseason due to just how many league decisions could be made off this single trade. Kansas City is seemingly going with rookie Patrick Mahomes for the forse-able future, yet the rest of the league’s teams searching for quarterbacks may have found their answer in Cousins. I don’t expect him to be winning multiple Super Bowls wherever he ends up, but if given a better receiving core and defense- who knows what could happen?
Regardless, Cousins is about to receive some serious money wherever he goes. And my only question remaining for Kirk after that is… you like that?