Only five years ago, Kirk Cousins was a hot commodity in part because of his performance and in part because of an unusual circumstance.
He was a quarterback at a relatively prime age hitting the open market as a free agent. The marketplace in 2018 was such that quarterbacks like that were generally not available in trades or free agency. If a team had an above-average quarterback that it liked, the player was signed and off-limits.
What has transpired since then is reflective of a seemingly greater level of volatility in the QB marketplace, with high-profile passers changing teams frequently. While the examples typically are trades and not free agents, the overall effect is interesting — and reflective of the Super Bowl or bust mentality that has become the norm.
Among the stunning moves in the last few years: Tom Brady leaving New England to sign with Tampa; the Rams dealing a boatload of picks and Jared Goff to the Lions for Matthew Stafford; the Broncos going all-in on Russell Wilson in a trade with Seattle; Deshaun Watson going from the Texans to Cleveland; and Aaron Rodgers being on the verge, eventually, of being traded to the Jets.
And we can add Lamar Jackson to that mix, too, as the Ravens QB acknowledged Monday on Twitter that he has requested a trade as their contract standoff continues.
Brady and Rodgers are end-of-career veterans — no doubt Hall of Famers on a path that Peyton Manning took when joining the Broncos after a long career with the Colts.
But Stafford (33 in 2021, the year he was traded) and Wilson (34) were experienced veterans with several good years presumably ahead of them at the time they were dealt. And Jackson, a 26-year-old former MVP, could be with an acquiring team for a decade — similar to the trade for the 27-year-old Watson purely from a football standpoint.
Sometimes it works splendidly: Brady won a Super Bowl. Sometimes it blows up: Year 1 of Wilson in Denver was a disaster. Sometimes it's both: A Super Bowl, then a disaster, for Stafford with the Rams.
What teams have realized is that there are two cheat codes for serious playoff contention: having a star quarterback, even if he's expensive; or having a solid (sometimes better than that) young quarterback on a rookie scale deal that allows for extensive roster building around him.
That has created buyers and sellers on both sides of blockbuster QB deals and ushered in a much different market than the one the Vikings entered in 2018.