As the NFL playoff field continues to narrow leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, teams that are no longer playing have started to focus on the riches of free agency to help ensure they will be competing for a championship as soon as next season.
Just as the most recent trade deadline featured an unusual rush of notable activity, this offseason has the potential to feature plenty of player movement with more money and cap space readily available.
A team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have recently signed players like Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson to help build one of the NFL's best defenses, are a free-agency success story. It can be done with the right mix of talent and coaching.
Here are the early rumors about what to expect when the NFL's upcoming free-agent period begins in March.
Kirk Cousins Would Listen to Browns
After going 0-16 last season and winning one of their previous 32 games, the Cleveland Browns are the biggest laughingstock in the NFL right now.
That wouldn't deter Kirk Cousins from potentially signing with the Browns if they wanted him.
NFL Network's Albert Breer said Thursday during an appearance on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland (via Kyle Kelly of the Browns Wire) that Cousins "would seriously consider the Browns if the opportunity presented itself."
This does potentially leave the Browns even more options for the draft. Conventional wisdom would say that taking a quarterback early makes the most sense since they own the first and fourth overall picks.
Certainly, there are financial benefits to building around a quarterback on a rookie contract. The No. 1 overall pick in 2018 will have a $5,998,787 cap hit next season and a total contract worth $32,993,327 over four years.
Cousins made $23.9 million last season under the franchise tag. The Browns can certainly afford to pay him under a long-term deal with $114.7 million cap space.
The Washington Redskins also don't seem likely to let Cousins go without a fight. Head coach Jay Gruden told Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post he doesn't want to see his quarterback play under another one-year franchise tag:
“I think something has to be done. I personally don’t want to go through another one-year deal, and just [keep going] one year, one year. I think you want to have a quarterback in here that’s going to be here. And hopefully that is Kirk, and if not, we have to move on and do what we have to do as an organization."
Washington isn't lacking in cap space to give Cousins a long-term deal, with $53.88 million available.
Cousins will be 30 years old in August. Even if he could get more money from the Browns, going through at least two years with a franchise in a constant state of rebuilding doesn't make sense for him at this point in his career.
The Redskins aren't a great situation after going 7-9 in 2017, but they're significantly closer to a playoff berth in the NFC than Cleveland is in the AFC.
Prediction: Cousins re-signs with Washington
Case Keenum Tied to Pat Shurmur
After leading the Minnesota Vikings to a 13-3 record and setting career highs in every statistical category in 2017, Case Keenum is going to cash in with some team this offseason.
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Keenum could end up leaving the Vikings if offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur gets a head coaching job this offseason:
"Shurmur and Keenum have developed a close working relationship in which the two men 'both think very highly of each other,' according to one source.
"It's only natural, then, that if Shurmur's new team needed a quarterback, the man he's expected to look to would be Keenum, who has played like an MVP candidate this season in Minnesota."
Schefter specifically mentioned the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants as the two teams high on Shurmur.
The Cardinals have an immediate need at quarterback after Carson Palmer retired and now that Drew Stanton is eligible for free agency. The Giants still have Eli Manning under contract, though at 37 years old, he's nearing the end of his career.
Keenum's value, either to the Vikings or as a free agent, is a fascinating story. He made $950,000 in 2017, signing in Minnesota to offer depth because of Teddy Bridgewater's recovery from a knee injury.
After Sam Bradford suffered his own knee injury following a Week 1 win over the New Orleans Saints, Keenum saved Minnesota's season. But he'd never shown any indication of being the starting quarterback for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
Last season with the Los Angeles Rams, Keenum had nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
The Vikings have the most incentive to sign Keenum because they've seen firsthand what he can offer. They figure to be among the top teams in the NFC again next season, especially with the same defense coming back that allowed the fewest points in the league in 2017.
Bradford and Bridgewater are also going to be free agents, so the Vikings will likely need to sign at least two quarterbacks this offseason.
As important as Shurmur has been to Keenum's success, the Vikings can't afford to let their starting quarterback get away, regardless of what happens with their offensive coordinator.
Prediction: Keenum re-signs with Vikings
Jimmy Graham Moving on from Seattle?
An offseason of change for the Seattle Seahawks could also spell the end of tight end Jimmy Graham's three-year stint with the team.
Per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, Graham is "generally considered really unlikely to be back in Seattle."
After being one of the NFL's most dangerous pass-catchers in five years with the New Orleans Saints, Graham struggled to find his footing with the Seahawks.
The 31-year-old was productive in 2016 with 65 receptions, 923 yards and six touchdowns. He led the Seahawks with 10 touchdown catches in 2017, but he averaged a career-low 9.1 yards per reception.
Even if the Seahawks wanted to keep Graham, they have so many questions to figure out this offseason that he should be low on their priority list.
Per NFL.com's Michael Silver, the Seahawks are expected to move on from safety Kam Chancellor, cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive end Cliff Avril as the team tries to navigate its difficult salary-cap situation.
Seattle has just $14.8 million in cap space available for 2018, with needs across the offensive line and secondary.
This is a new era of football in Seattle, and a lot of the familiar faces won't be around to see what it looks like in 2018.
Graham's market will have to develop later in the offseason, but the one thing that seems almost certain is he's done playing for the Seahawks.
Prediction: Graham leaves Seattle
Contract info via Spotrac.