The 2016 NFL free-agency rumor mill is yet to kick it into high gear, but that will change almost immediately after Sunday's season finales.
Frustrated non-playoff teams will look to jettison high-cost, underperforming talent while also making decisions about which top performers they'd like to see return.
Even now, we're starting to see things trickle in. John Wawrow of the Associated Press reported that the Buffalo Bills are planning to move on from defensive end Mario Williams. His name will be the first in what is always a crowded veteran free-agent market.
As the pendulum swings on the costly-to-effective meter, teams won't hesitate to move on.
But what about the players actually already scheduled to hit the open market?
In the cases of Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins and Chargers safety Eric Weddle, we see two disparate situations featuring wildly unequal resumes. Weddle has been a perennial All-Pro and is one of the best defensive players in Chargers history. Cousins is a fourth-round pick who has exactly one season of above-average NFL play under his belt.
I'll allow you to guess which one is being offered the red carpet while the other is shown the door. Actually, I won't. Here's a look at the latest rumors on both situations.
Weddle, Chargers Headed for Ugly Divorce
It's hard to think of an uglier divorce between a player and team that had nothing to do with off-field distractions or locker room tension.
By all accounts, Weddle's been a consummate pro since his arrival in San Diego. He's mentored young players, become a two-time All-Pro and been a steadying force on an often shaky San Diego defense.
If things were going to end between the parties, one would have thought a tasteful ceremony would be the way to go. Nope. Instead, the Chargers fined Weddle $10,000 on his way out the door for attending a halftime ceremony that featured his daughter and put him on injured reserve to keep him away from the team, per the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Tensions between the two sides had been boiling all season, as Weddle grew disenchanted with the Chargers' seeming unwillingness to discuss an extension. Weddle had sat out team workouts in the spring while angling for a new deal, but it became increasingly obvious that the team had little interest.
Why? I can't say I'm quite sure.
Weddle was still the 14th-best safety in the NFL this season despite playing through injuries, per Pro Football Focus' metrics. He had enough respect to remain a team captain even after missing workouts and still probably has a few years of good football in him as he approaches age 31.
This is a case of personalities clashing to the point where it overrides football sense.
What's worth examining here is whether the Chargers alienated the wrong player or if Weddle was secretly more of a malcontent than what's been publicly stated. Either way, this feels Favre-ian on a smaller scale.
Washington Still Riding with Captain Kirk
Josina Anderson of ESPN reported that Washington has zero plans to allow Cousins to walk into unrestricted free agency.
"He's very important to our organization," a source said. "We want him here. He's not going anywhere."
Cousins, 27, has thrown for 3,990 yards and 26 touchdowns against 11 interceptions this season. He's led Washington to an NFC East championship and saw his play ascend following DeSean Jackson's return to the lineup.
In the eight games since Jackson's November return, Cousins has thrown for 17 touchdowns against three interceptions.
The most obvious answer here is to give Cousins the franchise tag and see how things play out. Remember, a year ago, Cousins was a human interception waiting to happen. His propensity for picks has a real regression-to-the-mean potential, so Washington would be smart to keep the length of its commitment to a relative minimum.
The franchise tag would allow Washington the option of giving Cousins one more year to prove himself as a viable starter while not totally destroying its cap over the long term.
Robert Griffin III isn't returning next season—we've known that for a while. Washington needs to make sure it doesn't push its chips into the table too hard on Cousins, though.
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