The start of the NFL’s legal tampering period Monday might have created agita for folks on One Jets Drive clamoring for prized free agent Kirk Cousins, but there’s no reason for any green-and-white clad crazies to panic: Jets fans can’t lose.
Whether or not Cousins ultimately chooses the Jets over the Vikings, Cardinals or Broncos won’t change this truth: Gang Green is in good position to land a difference-making quarterback this offseason.
Cousins is the undisputed best option for this Jets regime, but, believe it or not, the organization won’t fold if they don’t sign the veteran signal caller. A fair case can be made that Plan B centered on the upcoming draft might actually be better for the long-term health of this franchise.
First and foremost, Cousins, who will turn 30 this summer, is plenty good and young enough to provide stability for a long enough window to make him worth the hefty investment. He’s a win-now and win-later player at the game’s most pivotal position.
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Cousins, who’s still weighing his options, is expected to make one or two free-agent visits before signing on the dotted line, a smart strategy for anyone searching for a new home. The reality, of course, is that his first visit will probably be his last unless the suitor drops the ball and fails to seal the deal in their face-to-face encounter with the player (presuming contract parameters have already been agreed upon).
Cousins’ farewell letter to Washington on his website Monday fueled further speculation that Minnesota and New York are indeed the two most viable destinations given that both teams were tagged at the end of the note. (Both tags were later deleted).
“As I’m about to make one of the bigger decisions of my life, I’ll be saying goodbye to my familiar life (in Washington),” Cousins wrote on kirkcousins.org. “After calling Washington home for the past six years, the team has decided to move on to another option and, in turn, my family and I will be moving on as well.”
There’s no need to sugarcoat it: The Jets want Cousins badly. They should want Cousins badly, but there’s no reason to panic if they don’t beam him up. (Real talk: Cousins is much more valuable to this current Jets regime than Jets fans).
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There are rumblings that multiple teams are amenable to giving Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year contract. Nobody in the mix, frankly, can compete with the cash that the Jets have at their disposal, but they’ve known for a while that money won’t be the sole (or even primary) factor in Cousins’ final decision. That has caused plenty of uncertainty and angst on One Jets Drive at the moment.
Sure, new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and run-game coordinator Rick Dennison, disciples of Cousins’ favorite, Mike Shanahan, are appealing reasons to join Gang Green. The Jets offense will include similar elements to the Shanahan offense that Cousins thrived in with Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. But is that enough?
“I will forever be grateful to Mike Shanahan for taking a chance on me in the 2012 draft,” Cousins wrote in his farewell letter. “At the time, many people saw his selection as foolish. Time proved otherwise and taught me that there are no guarantees in this business — if you work hard and learn from your mistakes, good things can happen. For the first time in 11 years I will participate in choosing where I play.”
The Jets certainly hope he chooses them, but they can’t compete right now with the Vikings’ overall talent base. Plan B, however, isn’t necessarily a terrible alternative for this organization.
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The Jets would pair a veteran (see: Josh McCown) with one of the coveted quarterbacks in this draft class. Mike Maccagnan is well positioned to select Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield, the consensus Top 4 signal callers. The Jets might have to trade up a few spots from No. 6 to ensure getting their preferred choice, but it’s clearly doable.
(The Bills traded left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals Monday to move up to No. 12. With the Dolphins at No. 11, there’s a chance that three AFC East teams could make strong plays for first-round quarterbacks).
The Jets obviously would have a larger window of opportunity with a signal caller fresh out of college. They’d also be able to address more deficient areas in free agency with their league-high $90 million in salary cap space if they went with the much cheaper rookie quarterback route. (Cousins is expected to command around $90 million in guarantees over the next three years).
Cousins is a proven commodity, so Plan B comes with a greater unknown. Regardless, a quarterback is coming to the rescue.
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Jets fans should be happy for that.
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