Big trades always have a trickle-down effect in professional sports. The landscape shifts, and new possibilities open up as old ones close off. Last night, the NFL landscape shifted radically.
The biggest immediate effect of the trade, of course, is that the odds of Kirk Cousins being franchise or transition tagged just dropped to zero. Cousins will hit the market as a free agent quarterback.
The next level of impact is on those teams who would be in contention to sign Cousins. The Broncos may arguably be the front-runners for him, with the Cardinals and Jets also being prominent figures in the coming bidding war. A number of other teams could also be interested, potentially including the number of other teams could also be interested, potentially including the Bills, Dolphins, and Browns, but the big wildcard is the Vikings, who had three starting-quality QBs in 2017 but have none of them currently under contract for 2018. If they think Cousins is good enough, they could let Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, and Teddy Bridgewater all leave town.
That’s the obvious stuff.
But here’s another layer of impact - the teams that want to sign Cousins no longer have to worry about designing a contract featuring absurdly high 2018 cap hits in order to browbeat the Redskins into refusing to match a transition tag offer.
So how does that affect the teams?
For groups like the Jets and Browns, it doesn’t really change anything. They’ve got cap space to spare regardless. For the Vikings (who have several important players to re-sign as well) and Broncos, though, it changes things dramatically.
How are the #Broncos going to sign Kirk Cousins?— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) January 31, 2018
I’m told theyll offer Cousins a lower-than-you’d-think average salary, but VERY HIGH guarantees (more than Derek Carr‘s).
Gives Cousins guaranteed money. But easier on Denver cap short-term.
A contract for Cousins through free agency means that the Broncos can keep Cousins’ 2018 cap hit low in exchange for higher average cap hits in later years of the contract. That takes what could have been a monstrous $30 million plus cap hit for 2018 and shrinks it down to be as small as potentially just $15 million.
The Broncos currently have about $26.8 million in 2018 cap space. They can quickly manufacture a total of $9 million more by cutting offensive tackle Menelik Watson and running back C.J. Anderson. Moving on from Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders could also free up an additional $5 or $5.5 million respectively. That gives us a range of cap room for the Broncos between $35.8 million and $41.3 million.
That should be room enough for Cousins ($15M), rookies (about $4M net*), and the RFAs and ERFAs (about $5.25M net*) the Broncos want to re-sign, perhaps even with room enough left for a free agent or two.
Notice a name missing from the cut list, though?
Aqib Talib has been heavily rumored to be on his way out of Denver over the last several weeks. But in my opinion, the KC/WAS trade just shifted the landscape in the star cornerback’s favor.
With less need to open 2018 cap space to try and make a run at Cousins, the Broncos may no longer need to covet the $11 million of cap savings that moving on from one of the league’s best corners offers.
Instead, I’d suggest that the Broncos should actually restructure Talib’s contract. He has no guaranteed money left, so a restructure to stay in Denver with his partner Chris Harris Jr. could be appealing to Talib. It could also lower his 2018 cap hit by a couple million, freeing some additional space if the Broncos need it. Both sides benefit.
A simple restructure could look like this: Base salary reduced to $6M in 2018, creating a $6M signing bonus that would pro-rate across 2018 & 2019. Talib’s 2018 cap hit would fall from $12M to $9.5M with $6M of dead money if he were later cut. His 2019 cap hit would end up at $10.5M with $2.5M of dead money and $8M of potential 2019 cap savings. The $2.5M of 2018 cap savings may not look like much, but it could easily mean having room for one more Domata Peko type contract.
A more complicated restructure could potentially include adding a year or two to his deal.
This is just my opinion. It’s also my opinion that moving on from Talib would be the end of the No Fly Zone, so I won’t even try to pretend I’m unbiased. I want Talib in orange & blue for at least the next two years, and I want to see him in the Ring of Fame someday (and likely that other, less reputable fame thingy in Canton too).
I’m celebrating the great Washington/Kansas City QB trade because I think it might just give the Broncos the wiggle room they need to make that happen.
Do you think the Alex Smith trade to Washington changes the outcome for Talib and the Broncos?
This poll is closed
Yes - Talib is more likely to remain a Bronco in 2018.
No - Sorry: Talib’s as good as gone.
I have no idea.