The reports of Kirk Cousins sprinting toward the open arms of the Vikings for a three-year free-agent contract that will pay him $84 million guaranteed had barely made it into the Twittersphere when the gravity of the guaranteed part of the deal began to set in.
In a league of owners that — to date — has deftly avoided dishing out fully guaranteed contracts, thus holding the hammer over most players, this impending Cousins transaction has the potential to shift the NFL’s free-agent landscape dramatically.
Will this open the floodgates to more top-tier free agents landing fully guaranteed deals in the near future?
How can it not?
Cousins — all the power to him — took advantage of his leverage based on the dearth of quality NFL starting-caliber quarterbacks and a litany of needy teams in today’s market and is about to score a landmark deal that could benefit some of his fellow players in the near future.
After the news broke, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin Jr. quickly sent out this message on his Twitteraccount: “Kirk Cousins is a hero for all the young players that will follow after him. Now we need more players to bet on themselves until fully guaranteed contracts are the norm and not the exception.’’
Is Cousins — whose prolific statistics (three consecutive 4,000-plus-yard passing seasons and a 65.5 career completion percentage with 99 touchdowns to 55 interceptions and 93.7 passer rating) outweigh his pedestrian won-loss record (26-30-1 and only one playoff game appearance) — worth that kind of money to the Vikings, who already had a couple of pretty good quarterbacks on their roster last year?
Only time will tell if Cousins is a stat-padding kind of quarterback or one who has the innate ability to lead a title-starved franchise that went 13-3 in 2017 over the threshold to the Promised Land — a Super Bowl championship — for the first time.
What Cousins — perhaps unwittingly — has done, though, is change the way coveted free agents negotiate with teams from now on. Surely, now that G-word will be much more a part of conversations.
Here are three other observations from the frenetic eve of the first day of the NFL free-agent signing period:
Drew Brees stays in New Orleans. Good for him and the Saints.
The 39-year-old Brees, who has agreed to a reported two-year, $50 million deal with a no-trade clause, almost surely will remain with the Saints to the end of his career, and that’s the way it ought to end for him.
Based on what he’s done on the field for the Saints and off the field for the New Orleans community, there might not be another player in the NFL who more represents the fabric of his team and city than Brees.
Will the real Case Keenum please stand up?
Is Keenum the player who went 11-3 with the Vikings last season while throwing 22 TDs to only seven INTs with a passer rating of 98.3?
Or is he the player who in his first five seasons with three different teams went 9-15 as a starter and threw 24 TDs to 20 INTs?
This is what John Elway and the Broncos are about to find out, since they’re about to sign him to a free-agent contract to be their starter. The Broncos will find out if Keenum was a product of quarterback-whisperer offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur (now the Giants head coach) and a stingy Minnesota defense or whether he can shoulder the load as a franchise quarterback as opposed to the feel-good story out of nowhere he was last year.
It was a tumultuous day in Green Bay, where popular and productive receiver Jordy Nelson, who also happens to be best friend with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, was cut, while tight end Jimmy Graham, whom the Seahawks opted not to retain, will be signed.
The Packers, seemingly messing with the chemistry in their locker room, also reportedly agreed to terms with former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who had tardiness issues with his former team that could not wait to rid itself of him.
Rodgers, clearly unhappy with the departure of Nelson, posted this message on his Instagram account: “Hard to find the right words today to express what 87 means to me. No teammate exemplified what it means to be a packer quite like him. From living in GB full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field. Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business. There will never be another quite like white lightning.’’
Nelson leaves as one of the Packers’ all-time best receivers, ranking third in team history in catches (550), fifth in receiving yards (7,848) and second in touchdowns (69). His chemistry with Rodgers was evident by the 65 touchdowns Nelson caught from the quarterback, breaking Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman’s club record of 58.