There is an inherent danger that teams searching for a quarterback always face. Choose the wrong guy, and the damage to a franchise can be severe and long-lasting. It was perfectly described last week by new Giants GM Dave Gettleman as "Quarterback Hell."
It's where the Jets have resided for far too many years.
But GM Mike Maccagnan has a rare opportunity to get out of that, and soon, thanks to some unusual circumstances and the Jets' recent misfortunes. He will be sitting on perhaps as much as $100 million in salary cap space when NFL free agency opens on March 14, and there will almost certainly be at least one franchise quarterback on the open market.
And Maccagnan owes it to the Jets and their beleaguered fans to end their 'Quarterback Hell' once and for all by doing everything he possibly can to bring Kirk Cousins to New York.
That is on the table, according to multiple sources, as the Jets dive deeper into their offseason preparations. They are considering a run at Cousins, although one source cautions they'll be mindful of his price. Franchise quarterbacks almost never hit free agency - especially before the age of 30 (Cousins is 29). And with a bunch of teams in search of a quarterbacks - like the Broncos, Cardinals, Browns and Bills, for starters - Cousin's price could be steep.
It just shouldn't matter to the Jets. They do not have a franchise quarterback on their roster (and they know it), and they should not accept enduring another season hoping for a career season from a journeyman like Josh McCown. And with the sixth pick in the NFL draft, there's no guarantee they'll get the quarterback of their choice anyway. And even if they did, Cousins is still the better bet.
No, Cousins isn't Tom Brady or Drew Brees. He's not a Cam Newton or a Matt Ryan, and he might never even be as good as Philip Rivers or Eli Manning. But what he is - easily - is one of the Top 20 quarterbacks in the NFL right now, probably in the Top 15. He's a quarterback around which a franchise can be built.
Those are rare. They are rarely available. And after decades of 'Quarterback Hell,' the Jets can't let this one get away.
Yes, there are other options, but none of them are better. The Jets could draft their next franchise quarterback, either by trading up or hoping one they like slips to No. 6. The first problem with that is the quarterback they draft would likely need a year or two of development, meaning more on-field foundering would be on the way.
The other problem is he would be an unknown commodity. Everyone loves Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and even Baker Mayfield now. But the odds are pretty strong that one of them will be the next Tim Couch, Akili Smith, or Ryan Leaf.
And the Jets, entering Phase 2 of a massive rebuilding project, can't afford to be wrong.
"If you take a guy just to take a guy, especially at the quarterback position, and he fails, you set yourself back five years," Gettleman said. "You set yourself back five years because there are teams that are in what I call 'Quarterback Hell.' They've got quality defense, they've got a good special teams, and they're going 7-9, 8-8, 9-7. And now if there is a legitimate guy, they've got to trade up and give away the farm to get the guy."
Cousins wouldn't be a setback. They know that because he's a known commodity - a six-year vet and three-year starter who has completed about 67 percent of his passes and averaged 4,392 yards, 27 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions per season over the last three years.
That three-year average would be the best single season by a Jets quarterback ever - and by far.
So why mess around, even if the cost turns out to be ridiculously large? The current largest contract in the NFL belongs to Lions quarterback Matt Stafford - a five-year, $135 million extension he signed last August with $60 million guaranteed. Maybe Cousins, with a lesser resume, doesn't get nearly as much. Then again, the price for franchise quarterbacks tends to go up over time (and regardless of ability), not down. An active market could set a crazy price.
But even if that was the cost, imagine this: The Jets sign Cousins and they solve their quarterback problem through 2022. They still have the No. 6 pick in the draft (and extra picks if they want to trade up) to get another great pass rusher, or maybe a weapon to help Cousins thrive. They still have a good, young core of players on the roster, and would still have another $80 million to spend in free agency - more cap space, even with Cousins on board, than almost every other team in the league.
That's right. Because Stafford's crazy deal still left him with a cap number of about $16.5 million in 2017. It'll hover around $30 million for the next three years, but that's still not absurd for a franchise quarterbacks, and deals can always be restructured anyway. Also, history shows the cap will almost certainly continue to go up.
So, the money is irrelevant, especially since the Jets have it. The only important thing is that this offseason, once and for all, they need to escape "Quarterback Hell." They've been there at least since the late '80s and early '90s - and depending on what you think of the Ken O'Brien Era, they've probably been there longer than that.
They are building the right way now. A foundation is in place. They are slowly assembling the pieces to compete, and they have the tools in place to do even more.
But if they don't have a quarterback, they have nothing, and they'll spend the next five years continuing their never-ending search. The solution is there for the taking, and all it takes is a little money and a little aggression.
So there should be no messing around, and no penny pinching. There are no better options. Cousins is available, and he's the Jets' ticket out of hell.