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Now what for Kirk Cousins? 10 potential 2018 suitors

From ESPN - July 17, 2017

It's not that Kirk Cousins does not want to play in Washington long term. And it's not that Washington does not want him to be its quarterback.

The reason Cousins did not sign a long-term deal with Washington before Monday's franchise player deadline is rooted in simple economics. The team never offered him a deal that looks like what he expects to make on the open market next March.

Sources close to the situation have told ESPN that Washington was hoping to get a deal done with Cousins for something in the neighborhood of $22 million per year. But since Cousins is already guaranteed to earn nearly $24 million this year on the franchise tag, that number is obviously too low. Even if Washington came with a five-year, $125 million deal similar to the one Derek Carr just signed in Oakland, that would not have moved the needle for Cousins.

This is because Cousins is poised to become the Loch Ness Monster of the NFL contract landscape. Since the franchise tag was established, no fully healthy franchise quarterback in his prime has hit the open market. Assuming he does not suffer some career-altering injury in 2017, Cousins will make history, and the market should react accordingly.

Simple economics: If supply is low and demand is high, prices go up. The NFL is starved for good starting quarterbacks. If one gets to free agency and multiple teams can bid on him, it's reasonable to assume the numbers could get astronomical. Given what Carr just got with only one team bidding, Cousins has every right to expect numbers in excess of $30 million per year with more than $70 million guaranteed.

The question now becomes: From which team? Here are 10 teams that could make up a robust market for Cousins in 2018:

Washington

A year ago, sources say, things were sour between Cousins and Washington management. Not so now. Remember, this missed deadline is not personal, Sonny, it's strictly business. There's no reason to think Cousins would not sign with Washington if it were the highest bidder. If the season goes well -- and it absolutely could, as the schedule and other circumstances offer reasons to think the Cowboys and Giants could take steps back -- these two sides might just want to get married after all. And Washington, with something like $60 million in cap space, will be the only team allowed to negotiate with Cousins between the end of its season and the second week of March.

San Francisco 49ers

Kyle Shanahan is the Niners' coach and was Cousins' first offensive coordinator in Washington. The 49ers could have more than $70 million in salary cap space when the new league year opens, which would enable them to outbid everyone else for a quarterback who knows Shanahan's offense and has had success in it. Right now, only Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard stand in the way of San Francisco needing a quarterback next spring. Hoyer knows the offense and could theoretically surprise, but his injury history makes him a tough long-term bet.

Cleveland Browns

New York Jets

Los Angeles Rams

Arizona Cardinals

Jacksonville Jaguars

Minnesota Vikings

Denver Broncos

Buffalo Bills

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