As details of Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract extension with the San Francisco 49ers were reported several days ago, the bar immediately became set for negotiations with soon-to-be free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins. While money will not be an issue for the New York Jets this upcoming offseason, the question of whether or not to make Cousins the richest quarterback in NFL history is an interesting one.
Garoppolo received a five-year $137.5M deal from the Niners, including $74M in guarantees, and a $42M cap hit in year one. It would make sense for general manager Mike Maccagnan to structure a deal for Cousins in a similar fashion, considering the available cap space this offseason (potentially $100M with possible cuts) and the ability to keep some flexibility moving forward should Cousins fail to meet expectations.
Cousins has put up over 4,000 yards with a greater than 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio in each of the last three seasons. Those numbers alone have most willing to write a blank check and exceed Garoppolo’s deal to bring Cousins to New York. The market for quarterbacks will only continue to rise, likely making this deal look far less eye-popping in several years than it will look this offseason. For a player like Cousins, add the right pieces around him and there is every reason to believe he is talented enough to win.
That being said, watching Nick Foles bring a Super Bowl trophy to Philadelphia, with Blake Bortles and Case Keenum just fifteen minutes away from going to the big game, leads me to think the same can be said for other quarterback options as well. Instead of entering a bidding war for Cousins, could a Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater option make more sense? Both quarterbacks would come with significantly less long-term financial risk, while also leaving open the option to add a quarterback in a talented draft class. Considering the early showings from Bryce Petty and the unknown of Christian Hackenberg, many would prefer to eliminate the draft possibility altogether. While drafting a quarterback comes with risk, so does allocating a large portion of cap space to a 30-year-old quarterback with zero playoff wins in his career.
The decision will come down to whether Maccagnan feels resources are better spent paying an established quarterback like Cousins and drafting around him, or going all in to draft a quarterback while using money in free agency to address other needs.
It is a topic that will continue to generate much debate over the next several weeks. Unfortunately, the option does not exist to wait and see if the preferred quarterback can be obtained by trading up in the draft, or that another option might fall to six. This makes a major push for Cousins all but certain to happen. Cousins may not be my first choice, but without certainties on draft day, it would be difficult to complain if he is signed. Having a proven commodity at a position long-cursed with mediocrity would be a huge step toward the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl. It also instantly raises expectations for 2018 and turns the Jets into a legitimate playoff contender.