Denver Broncos: Is Kirk Cousins Worth the Money?

Just a few days before Super Bowl LII, the Washington Redskins made a big splash by acquiring former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a 2018 third-round pick. By making this move it all but ensures the unlikelihood of a reunion between the Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins.

In many ways, this is a trade which doesn’t make a ton of sense. First, Cousins will be just 30 years old at the start of the 2018-19 NFL Season. Alex Smith, in the meantime, will be 34 years old when football rolls back around. Second, reports say the Redskins have every intention to sign Smith to a four-year, $94 million extension with $71 million guaranteed. It will make Smith 38 by the end of the contract, as well as pay him an average of $23.5 million per season.

To the watchful eye, it would seem that the Washington Redskins ultimately did not want Kirk Cousins leading the team in the future.

The future of Kirk Cousins

So where does this leave Kirk Cousins?

Cousins will hit the open market as a free agent after the two sides failed to come to terms on a contract that would have inevitably assured his future in Washington. In 2017, Cousins played under the franchise tag which paid him a handsome $24 million. Accordingly, the team offered him a contract with $53 million guaranteed, with the possibility of reaching $72 million. That deal would have kept him as a member of the Redskins until 2022.

In addition to everything that has already happened, rumors have it that Washington will attempt to franchise-tag Cousins again, which would put the team out $34 million this time around, and then try to trade him to a quarterback-needy team. Whatever the final course of action, fans could be in for a drawn-out drama in Washington.

Is Kirk Cousins worth the money?

The big question is: Is Kirk Cousins worth the money of a long-term contract?

The NFL can be a strange place. It can be even more bizarre when a quarterback with seven career starts signs a massive contract extension. Looking at you 49ers and Jimmy Garappolo.

Garappolo’s new deal with the 49ers sets a brand new bar for a player average per year at $27.5 million, as well as second in two and three-year cash distributions at $61.2 million and $86.4 million, respectively. That is a ton of money for a guy without a ton of experience. A deal such as this also speaks volume to what teams value and how the rest of the league should approach future long-term contracts.

Ultimately, Kirk Cousins will sign somewhere and for a lot of money. Specifically, Cousins is also the best quarterback available on the free agent market, so undoubtedly it works to his favor. After determining his market value, its time to examine whether or not the Denver Broncos should pursue him.

Kirk Cousins: Mile High Miracle Man?

It is apparent there is a dire need for a quarterback in Denver. The Broncos have floundered under a mix of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch over the last couple of seasons. Kirk Cousins is the guy who has also been linked to the Denver Broncos multiple times recently. Should the Broncos shell out the cash?

Jimmy Garappolo’s contract sent the market into a tizzy of sorts. Before the 49ers made Garappolo the highest paid player in the history of the NFL, many people figured Cousins would be the guy. At that price, it seems like a no-brainer. Now, if Cousins does hit the open market without the franchise tag, he could eclipse the $30 million per year mark.

Cousins has been a reliable staple in the league since 2015, eclipsing 4,000+ yards each season and 25+ touchdowns. He has also been active on the ground rushing for a surprising 13 total touchdowns over that period.

That being said, the Broncos should entirely pass if it reaches that height of $30 million. Denver currently has the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft. Due to the current crop of quarterback prospects readily available, it makes zero sense to break the bank on a guy like Cousins at that price.

According to Over The Cap, the Broncos current projected salary cap in 2018 is $178 million. The team also has $23.4 million available on top of the $11.4 million from 2017. It gives them $34.4 million in total. Individual players, like Emmanuel Sanders, could find themselves on their way out giving the Broncos more room. The team does have free agents who require more attention to lock up before making a play for Cousins. It will help if they dangle Aqib Talib as a possible trade target as well.

Conversely, Over The Cap projects a little over $11 million for the Broncos total rookie pool. They also anticipate the cost to be roughly $27 million over four years for their first overall pick. Imagining drafting a guy like Baker Mayfield or Josh Rosen seems much more enticing at this point.