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Paul Klee: Kirk Cousins-to-the-Broncos is such a great fit it almost hurts

By: Paul Klee
February 22, 2018 Updated: February 26, 2018 at 11:39 am
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DENVER — Kirk Cousins should take the money and run. The most money, as much as he can tug from his next NFL employer. Grab it and sprint to the nearest Wells Fargo, buy an island, donate to the Humane Society where he adopted his dog, open a coffee shop named “You like that?!”, help people.

Cash in, Captain. Have you seen the size and speed of the mercenaries trying to break his body? Cousins should request a king's ransom while he can still walk without a limp and remember where he put the car keys. He's the most coveted free agent since Peyton Manning in 2012. Take advantage.

Where will Cousins play in 2018 and beyond? Follow the money.

As a player and a person, Cousins-to-the-Broncos is such a great fit it almost hurts. Not only would he give the Broncos a franchise quarterback who can win the game on a rare off day for the defense; his bravado and faith immediately would balance the chutzpah found on the defense at Dove Valley. Ever since Manning retired, the locker room has been imbalanced, pride (defense) and hide (offense).

But Cousins-to-the-Broncos is not what folks around these hills should be rooting for. Oh, no. The best long-term scenario for the Broncos is John Elway and his band of talent evaluators — Gary Kubiak now has an office at Dove Valley, a smallish space described to me as a cubbyhole, but an office nonetheless — nailing their first-round pick with a quarterback who doesn’t break the bank.

Then you’ve got options. You’ve got options to sign an offensive tackle like Buena Vista’s Nate Solder and, suddenly, field one of the better offensive lines in the league. You’ve got options to sign a linebacker who can cover these elusive tailbacks and tight ends who plague the Broncos every year. You’ve got the option of keeping Aqib Talib, the heart and soul of the “No Fly Zone.” I like options. Don't you?

The Broncos roster has more holes than folks around these hills care to admit. Cousins fills one, the biggest one, but at what cost? The best value in sports is a capable QB on a rookie contract. As a card-carrying member of the Bad Baker Band, my draft preference is in print. Make mine Mayfield, the polarizing Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma. But with this many ex-quarterbacks in the room — Elway, Kubiak and Vance Joseph at the top — the front office should be able to identify the right quarterback for the Broncos.

This should be a positive time for the Broncos. There’s beloved owner Pat Bowlen’s inevitable enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, and Denver is a finalist to host the NFL draft in 2019 or 2020. Why not host the latter at Red Rocks?

But the quarterback quandary hangs over the operation like the brown cloud on a calm day.

Follow the money. That’s what Cousins should do. He’s 29 with a wife, baby boy and a rescued Goldendoodle named Bentley. This is Broncos Country, but it’s also dog country, and there’s no doubt Bentley’s fam would fit right in.

Cousins is the best quarterback available, and guys like Von Miller know it.

“I would like to have Kirk,” Miller said on the Dan Patrick Show.

I would like to have Cousins here, too.

Just not at this price: $60 million guaranteed — in the first year, what the Jets could offer Cousins, according to the New York Post. Or a fully guaranteed contract, which could happen with Cousins, according to ProFootballTalk. Times change, but only two of the past 10 Super Bowl-winning QBs made more than $8 million the season they won the big game. And Peyton Manning and Tom Brady accepted less than what they are worth to win Super Bowls.

At no point since 1994 has the Super Bowl champion plunged more than 13 percent of its cap space into the starting quarterback, according to Zack Moore of OverTheCap.com. A $30-million annual salary would represent roughly 16 percent of a team's payroll. You need good players everywhere.

When I left Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field in November, it wasn't Carson Wentz's powerful right arm that stood out. It was the sheer talent up and down the most complete roster in the NFL, a roster so deep it withstood the loss of Wentz and still succeeded. Before the Eagles won the Super Bowl, they showed the gap between a championship roster and Denver's: 51-23.

Where will Cousins go? The Broncos should follow the money — then hunker down with all those front-office quarterbacks and draft the right one.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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