The Vikings and QB Kirk Cousins yesterday "stunned the NFL" with news of a fully guaranteed, three-year, $84M contract -- an "unprecedented player-friendly deal for a league in which teams routinely pull the plug early on players and contracts deemed cost-ineffective," according to Matthew Paras of the WASHINGTON TIMES. The contract would "not only make Cousins the highest-paid player in the NFL, but also the first to sign a top-tier, multiyear deal fully guaranteed" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/14). In N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro writes in a league of owners that -- to date -- has "deftly avoided dishing out fully guaranteed contracts, thus holding the hammer over most players, this impending Cousins transaction has the potential to shift the NFL’s free-agent landscape dramatically." Cannizzaro: "Will this open the floodgates to more top-tier free agents landing fully guaranteed deals in the near future? How can it not?" Cousins is about to "score a landmark deal that could benefit some of his fellow players in the near future." When news broke of Cousins' deal, Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin tweeted, "Now we need more players to bet on themselves until fully guaranteed contracts are the norm and not the exception." What Cousins has done is "change the way coveted free agents negotiate with teams" (N.Y. POST, 3/14). FS1’s Jason Whitlock said, "I'm a football person and I love football, but if you guaranteed all the contracts, the game would be diminished. That's just a fact" (“Speak for Yourself,” FS1, 3/13). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: "I'm sure the owners won't think it's cool ... Rarely do you see someone maximize his leverage as Kirk Cousins has done" ("NFL Free Agency Frenzy," NFL Network, 3/13).
PERFECT TIMING: ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt said “you knew (Cousins) was going to re-set the market because he’s was the rarest commodity in the NFL: a quarterback to hit the free agent market in his prime, and early prime at that. He’s not even 30 yet” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 3/14).) ESPN’s Bill Polian said, "This is a guy who arguably is not a top 15 quarterback in the league. What about those other 15 guys?" (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 3/13). ESPN's Cari Champion said it is a "tragedy" that Cousins is the "highest paid quarterback" ("SportsNation," ESPN, 3/13). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard: "You have to pay more if you feel like you’re a piece away" (“Highly Questionable,” ESPN, 3/13).
WHO'S NEXT? THE RINGER's Kevin Clark wrote, "It is possible we look back on this week and see it as the start of a new era of NFL free agency." The NFL "abhors giving out guaranteed deals, even to its biggest stars." Cousins' deal will have "major ramifications on a select group of players." If Cousins can get a "full deal guaranteed, what can [Aaron] Rodgers get?" The NFL "does not want to abandon its business model, which includes being generally crappy to its players in contract negotiations." But Cousins landed this deal, in part, because the sport "does not think rationally about its quarterbacks." That is "great for the passers themselves, but less so for the other 21 players on a football field" (THERINGER.com, 3/13). FS1’s Greg Jennings: "I don't think this is for every player in the league, but I think every player is excited now, specifically quarterbacks” (“Speak for Yourself,” FS1, 3/13). CBSSN’s Adam Schein said of Cousins' contract, "If I'm Aaron Rodgers, I'm laughing" (“Time to Schein,” CBSSN, 3/13). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley said of Saints QB Drew Brees' new deal in comparison to Cousins, "He left himself no leverage because New Orleans knew that he loved that place." Wiley: "Brees should have used that to get more money and set the market even higher" ("SportsNation," ESPN, 3/13).
BREAK ON THROUGH: YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson noted Cousins did something "no other player has done in this kind of circumstance -- essentially winning on the front and back end of a deal." But for it to become a standard would take Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Rodgers "following suit." For it to "spread outside of the quarterback elites" would take someone like Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney "forcing a team to do a fully guaranteed deal for a cornerstone defensive player." That is a lot of "needles left to thread." But in all of this, "one this is clear: Elite NFL players are thinking more about the power they hold over teams." Cousins "went through the wall." Where NFL stars go with this "stunning new momentum could shape the league for decades" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/13).
UP-TEMPO OFFENSE: In L.A., Sam Farmer noted several factors help explain the uptick in NFL "trade activity in recent years, one that reached a fever pitch in February and early March." Most of the old-guard GMs are gone and the business is "dominated by younger, often more aggressive executives who are more willing to make bold moves to change the course of an organization." Then there are the "enhanced methods of communication" (L.A. TIMES, 3/11). THE MMQB's Peter King noted there are "three reasons that we've seen a spate of trades prior to free agency, when in most years we'd seen none." First, the "paranoia to trade is gone." Second, there is a "familiarity among GMs." Finally, there is the innovation of "texting" (SI.com, 3/12).