By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Fantasy football is over. Or is it? Because I see it as the beginning. The beginning of the start of your season. Now is where you get the edge on your league mates. If you know all the ins and outs of who goes where – from players to coordinators and position coaches – you’re priming yourself for a trip to your fantasy playoffs in the upcoming season.
First comes free agency, then comes the draft. Sounds like the start of a fantasy addict’s nursery rhyme, but I digress. There will be plenty of content coming your way from Club Fantasy on this year’s draft class, but first, we start with NFL free agency.
This series will cover offensive players, as they have the most impact in fantasy circles and we at Club Fantasy don’t play individual defensive players, or IDPs as the kids call it these days.
Next up on the free agent preview list: Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Kirk Cousins burst onto the scene in 2015, putting up numbers reserved for seasoned veterans who have been around the block a few more times than he. Heading into 2016, he was given the franchise tag because even his own team wasn’t sure if he was a one year wonder or this was the beginning of the end of their search for a franchise quarterback. Many pundits went back and forth on what Cousins was. Even I wasn’t sold.
And then Cousins told everyone to shut up and cursed those that didn’t believe in him and delivered an even better season in 2016. I’m assuming he said those things, obviously, but the end result was the same: people are still asking if after two years of consistent play, is Kirk Cousins the man the Washington Redskins should pay to lead their franchise for the foreseeable future?
To me, the answer is yes. After 4,166 yards passing in 2015, he threw for 4,917 in 2016. There was a down tick in touchdowns, from 29 to 25, and a slight uptick in interceptions, from 11 to 12, but all the signs point to Cousins remaining an upper echelon quarterback.
Here is the dilemma the ‘Skins face with Cousins. Franchise him one more year, for a price tag of roughly $24 million, and look to sign him to an extension in 2018. Or, if they still aren’t sold, draft a replacement this year with the intent of not signing Cousins beyond 2017 and insert rookie quarterback in 2018 starting lineup.
Of course, they could just let him walk this year and have no real plug-in this year and face restarting what they thought they solved when they drafted both Cousins and Robert Griffin III in 2012. (And Cousins went in the fourth round, whereas RGIII went second overall. Funny how things work sometimes.)
So let’s play the guessing game. Assuming Washington decides to let Cousins walk and go with a stopgap veteran in 2017, where will Cousins land?
San Francisco 49ers
This seems the most obvious destination outside of Washington. Cousins’ former offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, was just hired as head coach of the 49ers after an impressive showing as play caller for the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. Shanahan was also in Washington when they drafted Cousins. Destiny? Not so fast.
The 49ers were an absolute mess last year. Under Chip Kelly, the 49ers finished with the second worst record in the NFL at 2-14. They are void of talent at most of the skill positions. Their best offensive player, running back Carlos Hyde, has missed 16 games combined over the last two season. They are a mess, and that’s providing a G-rated description.
Why would Cousins want to go there and likely be out of playoff contention for the better part of the next 2-3 years?
According to overthecap.com, they have almost $79 million in available cap space. If Cousins wants to be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, the 49ers can make him just that. And they’d still have a plethora of draft capital to fill out the roster with talent if they draft well. On top of that, with a franchise quarterback on hand, free agents are more likely to want to play there.
Did I mention the 49ers also don’t have a quarterback under contract for the 2017 season? You know, after incumbent Colin Kaepernick inevitably opts out of his. Cousins would get his money, play for a town and organization that wants him, and is willing to build around him. Hold your breath in terms of fantasy – without playmakers around him, he’s not likely to put up 4,900 passing yards again – but in a year or two, he could be right back at it.
The Bears are an interesting destination. They have quietly starting building a reliable defense – short a defensive back or four – and have a gem in the backfield named Jordan Howard. If they re-sign Alshon Jeffrey, they have a number one receiver to help in the courtship of Cousins. They also have $51.6 million in cap space, and that’s before the inevitable release of Jay Cutler. Signing Jeffrey and Cousins cuts into that space greatly, but if Kevin White comes back healthy and performs the way we all anticipate he will, Cousins will stay in the hearts of fantasy owners everywhere.
Why wouldn’t he sign there? It’s cold. That’s all I got. The Bears are a more attractive situation to me than the 49ers. But there’s familiarity with the offense in San Francisco. Time would tell if the Bears want to go the route of veteran stop gap, big free agent splash, or hand the keys to a rookie.
New York Jets
Now hear me out. Actually, don’t. As bad as the Jets need a quarterback, they have just over $1 million in available cap dollars. Signing Cousins is a pipe dream. Just like the idea of the Jets being a good football team for their fans is. Sorry folks.
There are other teams in play for a quarterback – the Browns and their league-leading $106 million in cap space come to mind, but they’re playing the long game and Cousins is too immediate – but Cousins is most in play for the teams mentioned above. Well, except the Jets. I just like tormenting their fans. I’m evil like that.
Most likely, Cousins gets the tag once more. Washington is showing more commitment issues than a 50-year old bachelor. The Redskins have almost $59 million in cap space, so that leaves some wiggle room to sign him and still try to bring in pieces to help their anemic defense. But they face questions at wide receiver – DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both free agents – as well as running back – Matt Jones and Robert Kelley? Yikes – so who gets priority? If Washington was really sold on Cousins, he’d be locked up by now with a blank check in hand. It seems to me they’re looking closely at what happened in Baltimore with the Ravens and Joe Flacco. Flacco had all the leverage, the Ravens caved, and they’ve struggled to put a viable team around him since their Super Bowl win.
Cousins goes to San Francisco if things break down with Washington, but I’m predicting he stays in Washington at least one more year. If Cousins is your dynasty QB, have no fear. You have at least one more solid year ahead of you.