NFL execs predict Kirk Cousins' next contract, new team

Teams looking at 'once in a generation' opportunity with Cousins (2:03)

ESPN NFL writer Bill Barnwell marvels at Kirk Cousins' free-agency status and explains what Alex Smith's move to the Redskins means for the Chiefs' offense. (2:03)

The Alex Smith trade was good for Kirk Cousins and discouraging for the Cleveland Browns. That was one initial takeaway from conversations with NFL executives about what comes next for Cousins, the Washington Redskins quarterback expected to hit free agency next month.

Cousins, who turns 30 in August, will become the rare starting quarterback to reach free agency in his prime after Washington arranged to acquire Smith from Kansas City in a deal that can become official when the trading period opens March 14. Once Cousins hits the market, he will be in position to choose from a range of suitors based on criteria that matters most to him, under the assumption that any team serious about signing him will pay him well.

It's unclear just how much Cousins might command, but one salary-cap analyst thought the deal could average more than $27 million per year, with a $50 million signing bonus and $90 million in the first three years. Cousins would then supplant Matthew Stafford as the highest-paid player in NFL history -- and subsequently lose that title when the next QB mega-deal is signed.

Here's a look at how NFL execs see the dynamics at this early stage.

Three teams execs mentioned first, with some caveats