Vikings sign Cousins, Broncos sign Keenum in early start to free agency

Free agency was over before it began for Kirk Cousins. The coveted quarterback was wooed by the Minnesota Vikings during the NFL’s new pre-negotiation period, and he plans to sign a fully guaranteed three-year $84 million contract with Minnesota as soon as Thursday. With free agency officially beginning Wednesday, many players and teams did not wait to announce their pending transactions.

The fully guaranteed nature of Cousins’ deal is groundbreaking, and a testament to how highly his consistency at the quarterback position is valued. He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons as a starter, throwing for more than 4,000 yards each year, and the Vikings will expect more of the same through the 2020 campaign. At 29 years old, Cousins should still have plenty of good games left in him, and Minnesota offers a more stable, more capable offense than the one he was used to carrying in Washington.

Cousins’ arrival in Minnesota came shortly after quarterback Case Keenum, who helped the Vikings reach the NFC championship game in January, agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Denver Broncos. Keenum wasn’t supposed to be Minnesota’s starter, but injuries thrust him into the role. He responded with a standout 2017 season, which was enough to earn the trust of a Broncos team desperate for a reliable starting option after going nowhere with Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, and Brock Osweiler.

One of the injured Vikings quarterbacks Keenum replaced, Sam Bradford, signed a $15 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals, while the other, Teddy Bridgewater, announced plans to sign with the New York Jets. The New Orleans Saints didn’t allow their future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees to hit free agency, extending Brees for two more years and $50 million.

Quarterback wasn’t the only position where free agency started early. The Green Bay Packers shuffled their receiving corps by signing tight end Jimmy Graham and releasing wide receiver Jordy Nelson, giving Aaron Rodgers a new main target after years of Nelson being his top receiver. The Kansas City Chiefs guaranteed $30 million of a $48 million deal with wide receiver Sammy Watkins, while Allen Robinson left the Jacksonville Jaguars to sign a $42 million deal with the Chicago Bears.