The value of the Indianapolis Colts’ first round draft pick may be entirely dependent on one quarterback and what team signs him. That QB is Kirk Cousins.
Washington made potentially one of the worst NFL trades this decade by acquiring Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs and sending a third round pick in addition to a promising young slot corner. Washington gave 33-year-old Smith a contract extension at an average of $23.5 million per year instead of giving the younger Cousins marginally more.
This all means that Cousins becomes a free agent. Where he ends up plays a huge role in what value Colts general manager Chris Ballard may be able to get for the third overall pick. The most obvious options are the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos and New York Jets. Let’s break down these options and the implications for the Colts.
Browns: This makes sense simply because Cleveland has a ton of cap space and can throw Cousins the most money. Him going to the Browns may increase or decrease the value of the third pick. It may increase it because teams would still be trying to get in front of Denver and New York to get the second-best QB. It may decrease it because teams may see more value in trading with Cleveland for their fourth pick rather than give up an extra pick to move into the third spot. Cousins going somewhere else and the Browns taking a non-QB at first overall is the best-case scenario for the Colts since teams would know they had to get in front of Cleveland at No. 4. A potential RGIII-level trade could be coming the Colts’ way if that happens.
Vikings: This is almost undoubtedly the best-case scenario for the Colts and potentially for Cousins. The Vikings aren’t in position to trade up to get a QB but have enough cap space to sign Cousins. They’ve also got an established defense, and the NFC itself is unpredictable. If Cousins goes to Minnesota, then the bidding war would be on for teams trying to get in front of the Broncos and Jets.
Cardinals: The Cardinals are in an interesting spot. They need a long-term QB and have a dynamic RB option to take pressure off of Cousins. They could potentially be trade partners for the Colts if Ballard is willing to move back to No. 15. It would likely cost the Cardinals No. 15, No. 47 and a 2019 first-round pick. I’m not against this trade but moving back this far might be tough to take. However, if Arizona signs Cousins, it again allows the Colts to slip back a couple spots and still get a blue-chip prospect.
Bills: The Bills need a QB. They aren’t sold on their current options. A trade with Buffalo would likely net the Colts picks No. 21, No. 22 and either a 2019 first-rounder or picks No. 53 and No. 56. As with other options listed above, if the Bills do sign Cousins, it allows the value of the third pick to increase.
Broncos/Jets: This might be the two equally worst-case scenarios for the Colts. If either the Broncos or Jets signs Cousins, it really knocks the wind out of the Colts because no longer would Denver or New York be trying to get in front of the other. This means any move the Colts make would likely be to pick No. 7 or later, most likely options are picks No. 11 (Miami), No. 15 (Arizona) or No. 21/22 (Buffalo). This potentially takes them out of position to draft Bradley Chubb, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Saquon Barkley or Quenton Nelson. Of these two teams, the Jets have the most cap space to sign Cousins. The Broncos only have an estimated $28 million in cap space for next season, so signing Cousins may be tougher for them.
Where Cousins signs could significantly alter the value of the Colts third overall pick. The best-case scenario for the Colts is if Cousins signs with the Vikings and the Browns taking a non-QB at first overall. The worst-case scenario would be the Broncos or Jets since they no longer would be negotiating against each other.
I’d bet Cousins would look great in purple.