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Schefter: Final four teams for Kirk Cousins are the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings

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The final four teams for Cousins has been officially announced

Minnesota Vikings v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

We already had a pretty good idea for the market of impending free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, but now it is Schefter-official. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted out this morning that the final four teams for Kirk Cousins are the Denver Broncos, the Arizona Cardinals, the New York Jets, and the Minnesota Vikings.

Again we had a good idea about this already, but now we have the most connected guy in the business saying it, so now it is pretty official.

I would imagine all four teams General Managers made their intentions known to Cousins agent this week and likely talked numbers. Yes, technically illegal, but it happens at the Combine.

Right now, it appears that the Minnesota Vikings are the clubhouse leader for Cousins services but it is far from a guarantee. They have plenty of cap space to make it happen this year, but things get murky for them next season. Players like Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, Stefon Diggs, and Eric Kendricks are free agents. All four are likely getting big paydays. They also have a fifth-year option coming for starting corner Trae Waynes. So they could potentially lose 2 or 3 core players from their roster if they’re going to pay Cousins an expensive/highly guaranteed contract.

I think the Broncos are the second most likely team to land Cousins. They have to massage the cap some to make it work, but it appears they have a few plans in place to do it. Namely releasing or trading cornerback Aqib Talib, running back C.J. Anderson, and quarterback Trevor Siemian. Unlike the Vikings, they can afford to guarantee Cousins contract since they really do not have many big names to pay in the coming years and likely have big-time contracts coming off the books in the coming years. So they have that going for them plus a good enough roster to get them back into the postseason with better quarterback play.

The Jets expect to be very aggressive for Cousins, especially money-wise. They have near or over $100 million dollars in cap space available to pay whatever Kirk Cousins is looking for. However, they have all that money because that roster lacks players worth paying for. They are a few years away from being a competitive football team, even with Cousins so ultimately I think they won’t be major players for him despite the money.

The Arizona Cardinals are the dark horse team here. They have even less cap space available than the Broncos, but like the Broncos, they are expected to make some moves to free up cap space in the coming days. They have some talent on their roster, but a new coaching staff likely means a roster changeup is coming. I don’t think they will be in the final two teams but they’re the dark horse team many are overlooking.

Final thoughts:

I think this is a Broncos vs. Vikings battle for Cousins and in the end, I think the Broncos are more desperate and willing to do what it takes to get him. Mike Zimmer the Head Coach of the Vikings is a defensive minded coach and really does not like the idea of potentially weakening the defense to sign Cousins.

“I think it’s really, really important that we understand – and I’m not just saying this – we’ve won 40 games in the last four years,” Zimmer added. “We’ve done that by being pretty good on defense. This year obviously the offense was much better, but part of the reason we’ve been winning games and staying in games is because we’ve been playing good on defense, and we’ve been a smart team and all those things. I want to be really careful about taking away from our strength and saying, ‘OK we’re not going to be able to do this, and we’re not going to be able to do that anymore because of financial reasons or something else.’ ”

As I noted above, they have some big-time players hitting free agency next season. Two of them are pass rushers who are never cheap, one is a top wide receiver, and the other is an inside linebacker. Add in a big-time pay rise for their cornerback Trae Waynes and you see what Zimmer is talking about.

So I think they will only go so far for Cousins services while the Broncos will be more desperate. Just my gut feeling here. The Broncos have a good enough roster and can afford to make this commitment in the long-term to Kirk Cousins. John Elway is sick and tired of poor quarterback play and will be desperate to change that. The Vikings just made it to the NFC Championship game with Case Keenum and look to try to repeat that with a Teddy Bridgewater or Case Keenum.

I think the Broncos and Elway will do whatever it takes to get Cousins. They will pull out all the stops in their visit, have Von and likely other players to make him feel welcomed and make the money work. I don’t think the Vikings are that desperate and will only go so far and hope he signs for less to join a better roster.

It’s going to be interesting to watch but my biased eyes see Elway pulling this one out in the end once again.