The Vikings, Cardinals, Broncos, and probably the Jets all wrapped up their starting quarterbacks for 2018.
Tuesday saw the biggest chips in the quarterback market fall and several more blockbuster moves from NFL teams … a full day before free agency officially begins.
The biggest offseason question was answered on Tuesday when Kirk Cousins agreed to terms on a three-year, $86 million deal with the Vikings. That money is fully guaranteed, the whole deal, which is unprecedented.
The Vikings are banking on Cousins living up to his full potential. He was effective in Washington without the best skill players around him. He’s got upgrades in Minnesota with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, a one-two punch of a healthy Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in the backfield and the kind of defense that he never had in Washington.
But it’s still a risk for the Vikings. They’re starting their sixth quarterback in as many seasons and are on the hook for a whole lot of money if Cousins doesn’t pan out.
While Cousins is, was, and was always going to be free agency’s biggest story, that was just one of the earth-shattering developments happening on Monday and Tuesday. Here were the biggest shakeups before free agency even started.
The biggest QB questions were all answered
Before free agency, there were four teams in the running for Cousins: the Vikings, Broncos, Jets, and Cardinals. Now all of those teams have a starting veteran quarterback — or are in the process of finalizing one — for 2018.
Case Keenum lands with the Broncos
The Broncos took themselves out of the mix early, signing Case Keenum to a deal that’s expected to be two years and around $18 million per season. That fits much more easily with the Broncos’ current cap situation than Cousins’ big money would have.
Keenum was decent last season in Minnesota, and he’ll have the benefit of a great Broncos defense and talent like Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas around him. He needs to have a good year.
This is why the #Broncos MUST draft a QB in the Top 5 of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Keenum 2012-16: 454/777 58.4% 5224 yards 24 TD 20 INT.
Keenum 2017: 325/481 67.9% 3547 yards 22 TD 7 INT.
— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) March 13, 2018
That’s why the Broncos haven’t ruled out drafting a quarterback in the first round this year, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Cardinals sign Sam Bradford
The Cardinals were also going to have a hard time making something work with Cousins because of their cap space. They missed out, but didn’t take much time to sign Sam Bradford to a one-year, $20 million deal on Tuesday.
Bradford played well when he was healthy at the beginning of the 2017 season. But he spent most of the year sidelined with what Mike Zimmer described as a degenerative condition in his knee. He’s undergone two ACL surgeries and has been hindered by injuries throughout his career. He’s not a long-term answer for Arizona, but at least they’ve got a starter for this season.
They added Mike Glennon later in the day for insurance.
Jets sign Teddy Bridgewater
The Jets were the last team in the mix to land a quarterback, signing a one-year a deal with Bridgewater. New York is a good landing spot for Bridgewater, who will have the chance to prove that he can get back to form after missing most of the past two seasons rehabbing a knee injury that was so devastating that it could have ended his career.
They brought back Josh McCown too.
The Jets have the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft. They could still draft their franchise quarterback of the future and let him learn and develop behind Bridgewater for now.
Drew Brees finally re-signed with the Saints
There was one other bit of unfinished quarterback business heading into free agency, and the Saints took care of it on Tuesday. The Saints got around to locking Brees up with a two-year, $50 million contract on Tuesday, so he will almost certainy finish his career with New Orleans. But they waited long enough that other teams were in touch with Tom Condon, Brees’ agent, about the possibility of signing him. At least one other team was willing to offer Brees a fully guaranteed two-year, $60 million deal to woo him away from New Orleans, according to ESPN’s Mike Triplette. It didn’t work.
Brees’ deal looks like a lot on paper. But it’s team-friendly, with just $27 million guaranteed. That gives New Orleans an out after Year 1 if this turns out to be the season that Brees finally plays like he’s 39 years old.
Allen Robinson signs with the Bears
Quarterbacks were the big story of this free agency period, but there were a couple of huge wide receiver moves, too. Once Jarvis Landry was tagged by the Dolphins and then traded to the Browns, Robinson became the hottest commodity on the receivers market. The Bears snatched him up with a three-year deal that could pay out as much as $42 million.
Robinson will be a quality weapon for second-year signal caller Mitchell Trubisky, and the Bears didn’t stop there. They also brought in tight end Trey Burton. This approach worked out well last year for the Rams, who gave Jared Goff Sammy Watkins to throw to in his second season in Los Angeles. Bringing in Alshon Jeffery last year as a target for Carson Wentz panned out nicely, too. We’ll see if Robinson, who was productive with Blake Bortles throwing to him, can give the same kind of boost to Trubisky.
Sammy Watkins to the Chiefs
Speaking of Watkins, he’s not in Los Angeles with Goff anymore. The Chiefs brought him in to help out another second-year quarterback — but first-time starter — Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs still have a dynamic trio of Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce on the roster. Watkins gives Mahomes another threat who can regularly beat coverage.
The Chiefs paid handsomely — $48 million over three years — to land Watkins. But the former fourth overall pick is dangerous in space and should make the transition to starting much easier for Mahomes.
Jaguars land Andrew Norwell
Signing an offensive lineman never makes as big of a splash as adding any skill position player. But games are won in the trenches, and Norwell was far and away the best interior line option in the draft. The Jaguars will sign Norwell to a five-year, $66 million deal. That per-year average of $13.2 million makes him the league’s highest-paid guard, and he’s got $30 million guaranteed.
It’s not the flashiest signing, but it is a smart one that makes the Jaguars offense more dangerous.