As always with the Cleveland Browns, the topic of identifying a franchise quarterback is at the forefront of fan thought; and hopefully the front office. With rookie DeShone Kizer not having yet proven to be an apt heir to the throne left empty since Bernie Kosar was slinging leather on the shores of Lake Erie, the future of the position has left open to those who wish to speculate which quarterbacks could be brought onto the team in 2018 such as the 72 options identified by WFNY’s Jacob Rosen fantasy draft.
WFNY’s Joe Gilbert and Jake Burns have dove into the 2018 NFL Draft prospects. But, no one knows for sure which college quarterbacks will be capable of making the transition to the NFL. So, it is an easy escape to dream of a franchise quarterback from another team riding on a white stallion into Berea and saving us all from the dreck of what has been Browns football since 1999. The Browns could even keep all of their draft picks. The 2018 free agency period even might have one such player, Kirk Cousins. Pair his apparent openness to leave Washington with the Browns surplus of cap space, and there is actual potential for a Hollywood ending. Or is there?
Bode: Jake, do you consider Kirk Cousins a franchise quarterback? Roughly where would you place him in the hierarchy of NFL signal callers and what type of contract do you think he is worth to a team like the Browns?
Jake: In short, yes. I consider Kirk Cousins to be a tier two quarterback which is good enough to win a Super Bowl with the right franchise. He is below the elite level of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees but is right in the mix with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson. He is on the brink of three straight 4,000+ yard season, and he is completing passes in the high 60 percent clip with a near 3-1 TD/INT ratio. Cousins can make all the NFL throws and is a true leader in the mold many NFL franchises would love to have.
When I picture what a Cousins contract would look like, I would see Cleveland throwing something at him similar to what Detroit gave Matt Stafford. The money might not be as high, but the bonus structure and guaranteed money are what matters the most to the players. Kirk might not be quite the quarterback Stafford is, but for Cleveland to lure him into Berea and the mix of a franchise at a low point, money will have to be on the high side. Something like five years, $120 million with $85 million guaranteed and a hefty signing bonus in the ball park of $40 million. Seems hefty, but the Browns are truly desperate.
Bode, who else do you consider as serious contenders for Cousins? If money isn’t his main driving force, does Cleveland stand any chance?
Bode: What it all boils down to for Kirk Cousins is that he has an option of…
- Get paid as much as possible
- Compete for a Superbowl by sacrificing a little bit on the contract
If he wants to be paid, then the path is straight-forward. For the 2018 free agency period, I count 12 teams that as currently assembled could conceivably offer Kirk Cousins big-time Stafford money & still be able to meet their other needs ($about $50 million or more in cap space). Of those, there are only five without a set quarterback in place: Browns, Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts. The Colts (Andrew Luck / Jacoby Brissett) and 49ers (Jimmy Garropolo) might be eliminated from that list as well. Given how much better off Washington’s roster is and his comfort with Jay Gruden, Cousins most probably route here would be to use the Jets and/or Browns as leverage to milk as much as possible out of Washington.
If he wants to compete for a Superbowl, then things get more interesting. It would eliminate the Jets and Browns (maybe the Redskins too), but it would open up the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants (well, not as competitive), Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Denver Broncos.
In either case, I cannot fathom how he ends up with the Cleveland Browns unless he truly only cares about the money and something goes haywire with Washington that gives the Browns some type of advantage during those negotiations.
Do you see any reason for optimism of a Cousins-to-Cleveland mindset? How do you think this plays out?
Jake: Personally, I don’t entertain the notion of Cousins to Cleveland right now. If things change in the off-season with some serious news about meetings, we can entertain it. I think Browns fans have to keep serious perspective here on what the current state of the franchise is, and what would be appealing to a quarterback in his prime and nearing his 30s.
I have zero issue with the Browns throwing the kitchen sink at him fiscally, but the expectations have to be for planning without Cousins. His arrival in Cleveland is purely a pipe dream. The answer to the quarterback conundrum either currently lies in Cleveland or is elsewhere in the 2018 draft. While a veteran alternative is something to entertain, I would look to go all-in for Cousins and if it doesn’t work out, go with your top pick in the draft for the quarterback you vet the highest, and trust to be the guy.