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2018 NFL Free Agents: Latest Rumors, Predictions for Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Graham

Brian Marron@@brianmarron398Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2018

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) runs onto the field to warm up before an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in Landover, Md., Sunday, Dec 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

The time has finally come for Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins to make a decision.

For two offseasons, drama has surrounded a contract extension for the quarterback, but now the two sides must agree to a deal or else he is officially gone. As a result, rumors have already started to come out regarding Cousins and other big names of the 2018 NFL free-agent class. 

Given that the playoffs have not even started, it is far too early to draw any definitive conclusions from these rumblings. Yet, the latest buzz does set up for an intriguing offseason. 

     

Another QB, Another Free-Agency Splash?

The last time a major quarterback hit the free-agent market, the Denver Broncos won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Four seasons later, the team won Super Bowl 50.

Cousins is certainly not the same caliber, but he cannot play on franchise tags forever. If he does not return to Washington, he will be the most coveted free-agent signal-caller since Manning in 2012. Once again a team with plenty of quality parts, but no quarterback, the Broncos could be making big moves this offseason.

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Per Denver7's Troy Renck, the Broncos are planning to pursue Cousins this offseason, assuming he becomes available.

Renck also added that the team's hiring of former Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan as quarterbacks coach could open the door to Eli Manning.

Kirk Cousins and Eli Manning.
Kirk Cousins and Eli Manning.Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

The relationship between Cousins and the Redskins does not appear to be great. In July, team president Bruce Allen released a statement saying that Cousins "prefers to play on a year-to-year basis," as he turned down a long-term extension that included $53 million guaranteed, the highest ever for a quarterback.

Head coach Jay Gruden also appeared to take a jab at Cousins following the season, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington.

"When you're 7-9, you know it's hard to say, 'Wow, this guy really was outstanding,'" Gruden said. "Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we're 7-9."

Cousins has proven to be a good quarterback, but just how good? He has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in his three full seasons as the starter, including a career-high 4,917 yards in 2016. However, he has never won more than nine games and tossed 36 picks over that time.

With Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler, the Broncos limped to a 5-11 finish 2017. Cousins would still be an upgrade and could make Denver a contender in a winnable AFC West—especially with a strong defense, a solid running game with C.J. Anderson and two top receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

At this point, the Broncos might look like a more intriguing option than a Washington franchise that does not seem to support Cousins. If he does become available, look for Denver to be the favorite to snatch him up.

     

Seattle Losing Another Piece?

It appears the Seattle Seahawks' championship window may have closed.

Between the numerous sideline spats, Earl Thomas telling Jason Garrett to bring him to the Dallas Cowboys and Pete Carroll saying it will be "hard" for Kam Chancellor or Cliff Avril to ever play football again, there are some major changes about to happen in Seattle. Apparently, the offense is not excluded.

According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, tight end Jimmy Graham is "undoubtedly excited" about hitting free agency and unlikely to return to the Seahawks. 

Jimmy Graham.
Jimmy Graham.John Froschauer/Associated Press

This makes complete sense from Graham's standpoint: He led Seattle with 10 touchdowns last season, but he only accumulated a mere 520 yards on 57 catches, resulting in a career-worst 9.1 yards per reception. Although his 96 targets were the most during his three-year term with Seattle, the team could never figure out how to properly use him. 

From 2011 to 2014, Graham was arguably the best tight end in football. He averaged a whopping 138 targets per season, twice eclipsed the 1,200-yard mark and scored 16 touchdowns in 2013. At 31 years old, Graham is at the late stages of his prime, so he needs to sign with a team that makes him one of the offense's focal points.

After one-year experiments with veteran tight ends Jared Cook and Martellus Bennett, the latter being a disaster, the Green Bay Packers could be a great fit for Graham. Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have shown in the past they can involve a versatile pass-catching tight end with Jermichael Finley.

At the right price, Graham could give the Packers offense another weapon it has been missing. With Graham occupying safeties and linebackers in the middle of the field, Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson could thrive in single coverage.

Ted Thompson was notoriously shy about signing big-name free agents, but with him no longer the general manager, the next one could be more willing to go all-in. Graham would be a perfect fit.

      

Statistics are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.