What the Jets' draft might look like if Kirk Cousins had said yes

If the New York Jets had their way in March, they wouldn't be sweating over quarterbacks in the upcoming draft because they'd already have theirs in place for the next three years.

Kirk Cousins.

His decision to pick the Minnesota Vikings over the Jets created immediate ripples, as the Jets responded by re-signing Josh McCown and signing Teddy Bridgewater. As time passed, the ripples turned into big waves. Desperate for a long-term answer at quarterback, they made a blockbuster trade to move up three spots in the draft.

Although the Jets didn't see it at the time, the Cousins snub will be a blessing for them. They weren't right for each other, and now they will get a chance to grow their own quarterback -- a younger, cheaper and potentially better player than Cousins. But there's no denying his passion for purple changed everything about the Jets' approach to the draft.

No second-guessing here, folks, but let's have a little fun and imagine how things would look if it had gone the other way.

They'd have an established starting quarterback, still in his prime (30 in August) but eating up about 15 percent of their cap space. Cousins' salary -- the Jets offered $30 million per year -- would've forced them to curtail the latter stages of their free-agent spending.

They'd still have the sixth pick in the draft because there would've been no need to swap places with the Indianapolis Colts. They'd be able to sit back and watch the quarterback madness unfold, with desperate teams scrambling to claim one of the big four -- Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen.

With four quarterbacks potentially going in the top five, the Jets would be in position to pick the second non-quarterback -- a unique opportunity to grab a blue-chip player who ordinarily would be scooped up in the top three or four.

Maybe it would be Bradley Chubb, the talented defensive end from North Carolina State. He'd be the edge-rushing threat that has been missing on defense.

Maybe it would be Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson, who could anchor the offensive line for the next decade.

Maybe, just maybe, it would be running back Saquon Barkley, the Penn State highlight reel.

One of the three would be headed to the Jets.

With the fifth and 17th picks in the second round, the picks they traded to the Colts, the Jets would've been major players on Day 2. The second round will be dominated by exciting running backs -- Georgia's Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, LSU's Derrius Guice, USC's Ronald Jones and San Diego State's Rashaad Penny.

That's a stacked group of runners, and one of them could've been joining the Jets.

With those second-round picks, they could've filled two holes -- maybe a tight end (Penn State's Mike Gesicki?) or a pass-rushing linebacker (Georgia's Lorenzo Carter?).

After three choices in the top 49, the Jets might have been willing to take a third- or fourth-round flyer on a quarterback, an heir to the backup job behind Cousins. They would've been looking at somebody like Richmond's Kyle Lauletta or Washington State's Luke Falk.

This isn't meant as a what-might-have-been tease. Well, OK, maybe it is (apologies), but know this: After missing out on Cousins, the Jets did the right thing by trading up. It may hurt them in the short term, but they never will compete for a championship until they solve the quarterback problem.

At the very least, they added six weeks of suspense to the offseason.

"It's pretty exciting," CEO Christopher Johnson said at the recent league meetings. "I'm 100 percent [confident] ... that we're going to do something special with that No. 3 spot."