ARIZONA CARDINALS

What are the chances the Cardinals will land Kirk Cousins?

Feb 1, 2018, 8:40 AM
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws to running back Samaje Perine (32) during a...
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws to running back Samaje Perine (32) during an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
(AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

We’re still weeks away from the start of the new league year in the NFL, yet the landscape has already changed substantially for Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim.

Tasked with finding a quarterback solution this offseason, most believed Keim and the Cardinals had an eye on Alex Smith, the solid veteran who is no longer needed in Kansas City following the Chiefs handing the keys of the offense to 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes.

But a funny thing happened on the way to March — the Chiefs traded Smith to Washington (or at least agreed to it, the deal can’t be finalized until March) for a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller.

Scratch the name ‘Smith’ off the Cardinals’ list.

The move also means Washington’s Kirk Cousins will hit the free agent market and there promises to be a healthy bidding war for him. Cousins, in the past three seasons, has started all 48 games for Washington, posting a 24-23-1 record while completing 67 percent of his passes with 81 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

There is plenty of speculation on where Cousins will play in 2018 and beyond, and the Cardinals figure prominently on most projections from national outlets.

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling believes the Cardinals have the third-best chance to get Cousins.

Yet another franchise in the market for a veteran signal-caller? Cousins’ agent must look like the cat that ate the canary. Carson Palmer’s retirement leaves the Cardinals without a single quarterback under contract. New coach Steve Wilks emphasized to Arizona’s brass that he wasn’t prepared to take over a rebuilding effort in the desert. “We’re going to have a very active and aggressive plan for free agency,” Wilkes vowed, establishing Arizona’s quarterback strategy.

USA Today’s Nate Davis has the Cardinals listed sixth among seven likely Cousins destinations.

They’re in desperate need after Carson Palmer’s retirement and at a major competitive disadvantage in the NFC West, where the other three teams look to be set under center for the next decade. The desert might be a nice draw considering the presence of RB David Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald — probably — and a sixth-ranked defense. But GM Steve Keim already has a lot of money tied up in this roster and looks to be quite hamstrung from a cap perspective heading into free agency.

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting, like many, has the Denver Broncos at the top of the list, but says Arizona could be a factor.

Ryan Phillips of the Big Lead says the Cardinals are the fourth-best option currently for Cousins.

With Carson Palmer retired, the Arizona Cardinals are in desperate need of an upgrade at quarterback. The issue here will be cap space, which the Cardinals don’t have much of. Until free agency opens we don’t know exactly what kind of cap room Arizona will be working with, since there are a ton of ways to fix the situation. Right now we’ll just say it’s not great.

The Cardinals also could be in rebuild mode after a disappointing 2017 season. That might not be the situation a 29-year-old guy like Cousins wants to walk into.

New head coach Steve Wilks is a well-respected defensive coordinator and new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has worked with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Maybe the new blood in Arizona would entice Cousins to head out West, but he’d need to be convinced the franchise won’t need a full-scale teardown and long build.

And ESPN’s Mike Sando put together a thorough list of nine possibilities for Cousins, including the Cardinals.

Why it could work

The Cardinals have a successful history with signing veteran quarterbacks, having fared well with Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer in particular. Arizona is obviously in the market for a QB after Palmer’s retirement, and with the 15th pick, they might not be drafting early enough to find a starter. Pairing Cousins with RB David Johnson and a talented defense could keep Arizona competitive in a post-Palmer world. General manager Steve Keim might need to make a bold move at the position to keep the team in the competitive NFC West.

Why it couldn’t work

The Cardinals could find Cousins’ price tag too expensive, and it’s not a sure bet that Cousins would see Arizona as a place he could win right away.

In a separate ESPN insider article published Thursday morning, Sando polled anonymous executives around the league to gauge where they predict Cousins will go. One particular exec favors Arizona.

“Arizona might be my top pick,” this exec said. “They are competitive. I think Seattle is headed the other way. The Rams could take a step back. Arizona has a good defense, a pretty good recent history, some talent and a good running back. Plus, it’s a good place to live, and they did this already with Carson Palmer, and it worked, so they have a history of relocating guys positively.”

And you know that Vegas has some odds on Cousins’ future whearabouts, as well.

Whatever happens on the quarterback front for the Cardinals, you’ll get the latest and most complete info here on ArizonaSports.com and on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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What are the chances the Cardinals will land Kirk Cousins?