Destination Cousins

Kirk Cousins could become the NFL's highest-paid player in 2018. You like that?! Here are all the places the QB could land.

By Mike Sando

After back-to-back franchise tags, Kirk Cousins and the Redskins failed to reach an agreement on a new deal, leading Washington to acquire Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith as his replacement.

Though the deal can't become official until the new league year begins on March 14, the writing's on the wall in permanent ink: Cousins is done in Washington, barring a snag in the Smith trade.

Cousins now will become one of the few productive quarterbacks to ever reach free agency, and he could be looking at a long-term deal worth more than $30 million per season.

Here we consider why Cousins might (and might not) fit with 10 teams that could have starting QB needs.

Illustrations by Brian Konnick
Arizona Cardinals Why it could work

The Cardinals have a successful history with signing veteran quarterbacks, having fared well with Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer in particular. Arizona is obviously in the market for a QB after Palmer's retirement, and with the 15th pick, the Cardinals might not be drafting early enough to find a starter. Pairing Cousins with RB David Johnson and a talented defense could keep Arizona competitive in a post-Palmer world. General manager Steve Keim might need to make a bold move at the position to keep the team contending in the competitive NFC West.

Why it couldn't work

The Cardinals could find Cousins' price tag too expensive, and it's not a sure bet that Cousins would see Arizona as a place he could win right away.

Cleveland Browns Why it could work

The Browns should be even more desperate for quarterback help after losing out in their pursuit of Smith. They have lots of salary-cap space and could conceivably outbid other teams for Cousins' services.

Why it couldn't work

Cousins might see the Browns' ownership as even more dysfunctional than he saw the Redskins' ownership. Cleveland's 1-31 record over the past two seasons could scare him off, too. The Browns could also decide to go with a highly drafted rookie from the start. They own two of the top four picks.

Denver Broncos Why it could work

The Broncos will be desperate for a quarterback upgrade after a rough 2017 season. Does John Elway want to roll the dice in the draft -- Denver owns the No. 5 pick -- after failing to get desired results with Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch? Cousins could see Denver as inviting with the strength of the Broncos' defense.

Why it couldn't work

The Broncos could be leery about spending big for a quarterback they don't know well. There could be more cost-effective alternatives in the veteran market, and because they're drafting so early, they could see a solution there. Cousins could see Denver as a place where Elway churns through coaches and quarterbacks whenever the on-field results fail to meet sky-high expectations.

Buffalo Bills Why it could work

Tyrod Taylor's future with the team appears shaky at best, which will put the Bills in the market for a quarterback. Cousins is one of the few available options with numbers as good as or better than Taylor's. Buffalo could see Cousins as an upgrade.

Why it couldn't work

With a relatively new coach and GM, the Bills might want to start fresh with their own quarterback, not with an expensive veteran from another team. Sean McDermott is a defensive-minded coach who might prefer building the roster in other areas over spending huge money for a good-not-great quarterback. Cousins also could be wary of Buffalo after the Bills benched Taylor.

New York Jets Why it could work

The Jets have no long-term solution at quarterback, which means all options need to be on the table. Cousins would stabilize a position that has seen Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez as the primary starters over the past five-plus seasons. While McCown, who is an unrestricted free agent, exceeded expectations in 2017, he will be 39 as training camp gets going. The team can't bank on him for the future, but with tons of cap space and an obvious need, the Jets could put together a very strong offer.

Why it couldn't work

Cousins might not see the Jets as a destination where he can win right away. The Jets also could decide to target a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. That was the direction league insiders thought the Jets were heading as the 2017 season got going, but the assumption back then was that the Jets could be picking first or second overall.

Miami Dolphins Why it could work

Ryan Tannehill's season-ending knee injury will force the Dolphins to at least consider alternatives for 2018 and beyond. Jay Cutler isn't a long-term solution. Tannehill has also reached the point in his contract when the team could release him without negative salary-cap consequences. Cousins could solve a long-running problem in Miami.

Why it couldn't work

Coach Adam Gase might prefer what he already knows in Tannehill. There's a good chance the team would not see Cousins as a dramatic upgrade.

Minnesota Vikings Why it could work

None of the Vikings' current quarterbacks has a contract beyond this season. The Vikings are an NFC contender as it is, but their odds for getting over the top and winning a championship could increase with Cousins, who is more proven than Case Keenum and more durable than Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford. Minnesota has a history under general manager Rick Spielman of adding veteran quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb and Bradford. Cousins would arrive in that tradition.

Why it couldn't work

The Vikings aren't really broken, so why should they pursue an expensive fix? They could be more likely to re-sign Keenum and/or Teddy Bridgewater. They know both players much better than they know Cousins, who figures to carry a higher price tag that could be a deterrent. Keenum outranked Cousins in Total QBR last season. A defensive-minded coach such as Mike Zimmer might not want to spend so much for a quarterback.

New York Giants Why it could work

Cousins would be a younger alternative to Eli Manning on a team with a new coach and general manager.

Why it couldn't work

GM Dave Gettleman has indicated that he would like to have Manning back in 2018. The Giants could keep Manning for another year or use him as a bridge to a younger quarterback, and they have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. The Giants also could decide Manning can function well enough to start for the next couple seasons if the team upgrades its offensive line and running game while getting healthy at receiver.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Why it could work

The concerns over immaturity that followed Jameis Winston from Florida State into the NFL again appear relevant amid allegations Winston sexually assaulted an Uber driver in 2016. The league is investigating. If keeping Winston becomes untenable or the Bucs simply determine they need more maturity from the position, Cousins could make sense for them.

Why it couldn't work

The Bucs will likely remain committed to Winston. They also might want to funnel their financial resources toward upgrading other areas, including their pass rush.

Indianapolis Colts Why it could work

Andrew Luck's long-term health has been in question, and he is not yet able to play in a game. If Luck does not return to health, the Colts could suddenly be back in the market for a starter.

Why it couldn't work

Luck said this week that he won't need another surgery and he's optimistic about his prospects for a healthy return. Even if Luck's status is in question, the Colts could draft a replacement in 2018. They also might think Jacoby Brissett can be at least serviceable if given a baseline level of support.