ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported Monday that sources have told him the Jets want the veteran quarterback so badly that “they’re willing to pay whatever it takes.”
Cousins is expected to hit the open market next month after the Washington Redskins traded for Alex Smith. There has been some speculation that the Redskins might still apply the $34 million franchise tag to Cousins so they can receive compensation for him in a trade. However, Cousins is reportedly prepared to file a grievance if that happens.
According to Spotrac.com, the Jets are nearly $80 million under the salary cap, and they could free up another $11 million if they part ways with defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
Cousins told WFAN’s “The Afternoon Drive” earlier this month that, if he indeed becomes an unrestricted free agent, signing with a team built to win would be a higher priority than fetching top dollar.
Cousins figures to command more than the $137.5 million over five years that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo received last month.
“Winning is everything, especially at this stage of my career — I’m going into Year 7,” Cousins said. “Because I’ve been franchise-tagged twice, I’ve been in a position where it’s not about the money so much; it’s about winning. I want to win. This isn’t the NBA. You can’t just get one player and now you’re in the AFC championship game or the NFC championship game. … Other pieces comes into play.”
The Jets are coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2010. Their pursuit of Cousins could hinge on them convincing the 29-year-old QB that their losing ways are about to change, and having the NFL’s second-best salary-cap situation this offseason could go a long way toward doing that.
Cimini also reported that the Jets’ recruiting pitch would include touting new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and his system. Bates comes from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree. Shanahan drafted and helped develop Cousins in Washington.
Cousins said he met Bates coming out of college and liked him.
“I just think he’s a good football mind,” he said. “He’s about football, and that’s what matters to him. Everybody I’ve talked to who knows him loves him.”
Cousins was the Redskins’ full-time starting QB the last three seasons, passing for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of those years. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2016.