It’s been a minute since we’ve taken a trip around the league, but all 32 teams gathering in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine provides us an opportunity to check in with what’s happening elsewhere.
In case you’ve missed it, the Bears have had their own spin around the rumor mill today. They’ll have stiff competition in the Jarvis Landry sweepstakes from the Ravens and at least three other teams. If that option falls through, Chicago might have a more-than-decent fall-back(?) plan in Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins if neither player is franchised by Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline. Speaking of the franchise tag, the Bears are not expected to use it to keep cornerback Kyle Fuller.
And to think, that’s just the tip of the iceberg …
- Here is a nice reminder that the cost of acquiring a quarterback is always going to be astronomically high:
Eagles have fielded – not solicited – more than one inquiry and offer for Nick Foles. Eagles' basic answer is it's going to take more than the 1st and 4th round picks they got from Vikings for Sam Bradford. Foles is Super Bowl MVP and best insurance policy in NFL.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 5, 2018
- Sometimes, I wonder what this place would be like if the Bears were in the hunt for a quarterback. At this time last year, we knew the Bears needed one, but were unsure whether they would be willing to take one with the No. 3 pick, choose one in a later round, engineer a trade, pick a free agent target, or kick the can down the road once again. We all know what happened, but that won’t stop me from wondering what they would be thinking if they had a bunch of cap space, a top-10 pick, a quarterback-friendly head coach, and a need at the position.
- For example, I’d be wondering aloud whether the team would be in on Kirk Cousins. Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Denver Broncos are “all in” on the free-agent-to-be. Sources tell Robinson the Broncos are exploring scenarios in which the team could create up to $50 million in cap space in order to bring Cousins into the fold. The Vikings and Jets are expected to be “significant competitors” in Cousins derby, while the Browns are on the outside looking in right now. Cousins going to Denver would up the ante in the AFC West, a division that could boast what might be the most talented group of quarterbacks with Derek Carr (Raiders), Philip Rivers (Chargers), and Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs).
- HOWEVER, NFL insider Benjamin Allbright hears from Broncos sources that Cousins is “likely headed to Minnesota.” The Vikings first popped up as a possible landing spot for Cousins when the team passed on using the franchise tag to keep Case Keenum. Minnesota has a competitive team that appears to be a quarterback away from being a champion, so it makes sense that they’re after Cousins – even if they don’t have the kind of financial flexibility of others in the hunt.
- Which brings us to the New York Jets, who are believed to be the team that can offer Cousins the most money. SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano reports the Jets are taking seriously the threat of the Vikings swooping in and stealing Cousins from under their nose after “informal, preliminary talks” with the quarterback’s camp. It seems like the Jets are ready to move on to other options in case the Vikings’ offer of an immediate chance to win trumps the cash haul Cousins can land by signing with the Jets.
- ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Arizona Cardinals are in on Cousins, too. The Cardinals round out the final four teams expected to be in on the Cousins derby, with each providing a different angle. Denver has John Elway, a championship pedigree, and a highly respected defense. New York’s Other Football Team has the cap space and could offer Cousins face-of-the-franchise status upon arrival. Minnesota has enough cap space to make a competitive offer and a roster that was on the cusp of playing the Super Bowl on their home field. Good luck to all parties, especially the ones not in the Bears’ division.
- The Green Bay Packers will have an interest in where Cousins lands … and not just because he could end up with their division rivals in Minnesota. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst told PFT Live that he would prefer to get an Aaron Rodgers extension done before Cousins and Drew Brees get their new deals this offseason. That’s sensible because Rodgers would become the highest-paid quarterback and reset the top of the market before Cousins and Brees top him later. Rodgers stands to gain more by waiting for Cousins and Brees to set a new standard, then signing once the dust settles.
- And by the sounds of it, I fully expect for a new Rodgers deal to come together after Brees and Cousins get paid:
Update on the #Packers Aaron Rodgers contract extension. I heard it was extremely close. But a trusted source told me the two sides are simply talking and that Rodgers' extension is unlikely to be done until after the Kirk Cousins deal comes in. Which makes a lot of sense.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 3, 2018
- Speaking of Brees, New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton expects the team to strike a deal with the team’s star quarterback. Payton told Pro Football Talk a deal that will keep Brees from becoming a free agent will be done soon. At least, that’s the expectation. New Orleans can’t use the franchise tag to retain Brees because of a clause in his contract and Brees has stated he has no interest in going elsewhere. It would be a shocker if these two parted ways this offseason.
- Saints GM Mickey Loomis believes a deal will get done, telling Herbie Teope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “I think the important thing is Drew wants to be a New Orleans Saint. We want him to be a New Orleans Saint, so he’s going to be a New Orleans Saint. That’s what my expectation is and we’ll see about the timing of that.” Of course, time is ticking on a deal as Brees can start talking to other teams a week from today when the legal tampering period opens up. And while all sides have made it clear that Brees is going to be The Man in New Orleans, there’s still a small chance that doesn’t happen. Those chances can only grow with every moment he goes un-signed.
- Even though Miami Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase is committed to Ryan Tannehill as the team’s starting quarterback in 2018, he wouldn’t rule out the idea of the team drafting a quarterback in the first round. In fact, Gase told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that he would like to draft a quarterback every year. That’s a familiar chorus for Bears fans, who remember GM Ryan Pace discussing that exact concept when he arrived in 2015.
- The Dolphins aren’t the only AFC team with a seemingly settled quarterback situation that could surprise some teams and draft a signal caller in the first round. Add the Los Angeles Chargers to the list. “If I can get my future quarterback right now, why wouldn’t I?” asked Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn. “I’m just looking at the big picture here. We’re trying to get better at every spot. And, you never know what position is going to step up and help you win.” Long-time star quarterback Philip Rivers turned 36 in December and the team has Cardale Jones currently behind him on the depth chart. The Chargers will pick 17th overall in April’s draft, which isn’t the best place to be if your team is looking for a top quarterback prospect.
- The idea of the Bears being trendsetters is wild, but the Browns might be following the Mike Glennon playbook this offseason if Hue Jackson’s quarterback preference is truly A.J. McCarron. Peter King of SI.com’s The MMQB hears Jackson wants McCarron, which is sensible considering he coached him as a backup when the two were together in Cincinnati. But McCarron has minimal starting quarterback experience and could demand a Glennon-like deal. Then again, this wouldn’t be bad for the Browns. They could still use a first-round pick on a quarterback, because it doesn’t take much to make a case that USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen each needs work before they are NFL ready – much like Mitch Trubisky needed some time to acclimate himself in 2017.
- A decision needs to be made regarding how the Rams will use the franchise tag. Surely, this is something the Bears will keep an eye on:
The #Rams are expected to apply the franchise tag to a player tomorrow. They are still undecided between WR Sammy Watkins and S Lamarcus Joyner. Tagging one means the other may test the market.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2018
- Graham Gano popped up as someone who might be handed the franchise tag before Tuesday’s deadline, but Ian Rapoport tweets the Panthers are working on a long-term deal to secure their kicker. The franchise tag is a fall-back option, so don’t expect one of the game’s top kickers to hit the market. Sorry to those of you who were hoping to erase your Connor Barth memories.