Kirk Cousins rumors: Cardinals prepping monster offer, look to pair him with FA

The Arizona Cardinals were thought to be out of the running for free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins just a few weeks ago, owed largely in part to the notion that two other teams can offer either more money (Jets) or immediate success (Vikings). But it's since been circulated that Arizona is one of four remaining teams in the hunt for Cousins.

The Jets and Vikings look like the primary suitors and Cousins' decision probably comes down to those two teams, but it's worth noting that, according to Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM Arizona's Sports Station, Arizona is prepping a monster offer for Cousins.

Specifically, per Jurecki, the Cardinals plan to offer Cousins a five-year deal worth $145 million, which would mean Cousins makes $29 million per year, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history, surpassing Jimmy Garoppolo's average annual value. 

Additionally, Jurecki reports the offer would feature a $20 million signing bonus and $15 million in base salary in the first year, along with a whopping $90 million in guarantees over the first three years of the deal. 

That sort of the contract would absolutely put the Cardinals in play for Cousins. 

It's believed the Jets could offer him north of $150 million over five years, which would obviously top this offer. But the Cardinals are a substantially more competitive team and could potentially make another splash in free agency to help entice Cousins.

Free agent guard Andrew Norwell, the top offensive lineman available on the open market, is slated to break the bank for players at his position. And the man who coached him last year, Ray Brown, left Carolina to join new coach Steve Wilks as the Cardinals offensive line coach.

Many around the league believe Norwell will just scoot up the east coast to New York, where the man who took a chance on him as an undrafted free agent, Dave Gettleman, is the new Giants GM. 

But if the Cardinals are going to be big spenders and can manage to pair Norwell along with Cousins, it would be an interesting combo for both players. Arizona already has Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson on offense; adding a talented guard and a top-shelf quarterback would immediately vault them back into the competition of the NFC West.

Arizona is not loaded with cap space, however. The Cardinals have Tyrann Matheiu as an expected cut, who could save $11 million in salary cap space if designated as a post June 1 cut. Adrian Peterson is going to get released by Arizona soon, and will free up more than $2 million when that happens.

Those moves would push the Cardinals north of $30 million; at the very least they should have more than $25 million in salary-cap space to work with. Both moves could theoretically happen, given the magic of salary-cap manipulation in modern times. 

And maybe it's possible the Cardinals won't pair both guys. If Cousins is going to have a $39 million cap hit, the Cardinals will need to trim more contracts. Two guys to look at are Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati. The two offensive lineman are cut/trade candidates when free agency kicks off and would collectively save more than $13 million in cap space.

Part ways with Iupati, Veldheer and Mathieu (post June 1), add in Peterson and you've got $26 million more in cap space ($19 million prior to June 1). If you can work out an extension with Deone Bucannon to lower his cap number, you're working with a whole lot of cap space all of a sudden.

It's going to require GM Steve Keim and his front office to do some quick step dancing in terms of making moves, but it's not out of the question for the Cardinals to end up being highly aggressive in free agency this offseason. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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