The final four teams expected to be vying for free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins are the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Saturday.
Those teams privately are planning how to pursue Cousins, how to structure a contract for him and how to land him, league sources told Schefter. Most of those teams are thinking short-term deals, potentially three years, with a very high guarantee in the contract.
Cousins is flexible on how the money will be paid out because he has made so much the past two seasons playing under the franchise tag for the Washington Redskins.
The 29-year-old has been one of the NFL’s most productive quarterbacks since becoming the Redskins’ full-time starter three years ago. During that time, he ranks fourth in passing yards, sixth in passer rating, seventh in total QBR and eighth in touchdown passes.
Last season, Cousins topped the 4,000-yard mark for the third straight season. He finished with 4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions — and a total QBR of 50.5, his lowest as the full-time starter.
The Redskins traded with the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire Alex Smith on Jan. 30, agreeing to a four-year extension with the veteran.
Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said earlier this week that he doesn’t think the team would try to tag Cousins for a third straight season.
Broncos president of football operations/president John Elway said earlier this week at the NFL scouting combine that the team had the salary-cap flexibility to do any deal and would consider any quarterback on the open market. Denver also has the fifth pick in the draft.
The Broncos have a base to build around, as the running game ranked 12th in yards per game last season and the defense was No. 3 in yards allowed.
The Cardinals don’t have a quarterback under contract for 2018 and don’t have much cap room (approximately $23 million).
Jets coach Todd Bowles, meanwhile, said earlier this week that the team has a strategy in place, and that they’d be happy with any of the choices.
“We have a plan — A, B and C,” Bowles said.
The Jets have more than $90 million in salary-cap room and also have the No. 6 pick in the NFL draft, but quarterback isn’t the only position of need. They need a running back, tight end and offensive line help, and the defense ranked 25th in yards allowed.
Minnesota, which reached the NFC Championship Game, has all three of its quarterbacks — Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford — poised to enter the market as unrestricted free agents.