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No matter where quarterback Kirk Cousins signs, and given the attention his contract situation has received, there’s a clear directive: He’d better win. He knows that as well as anyone. And in every interview, Cousins has repeated how important winning will be to his choice.

If that’s the case, then some teams make a lot of sense and a handful of teams do not.

Minnesota tops the list of the teams that make the most sense — if it decides not to keep any of the three unrestricted free agents from its 2017 roster at the position. Thing is, the Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game (with a much less expensive Case Keenum), so the expectations would be set awfully high for Cousins. Still, if it’s about long-term success and the Vikings are interested, then they’re the easy choice — even if it means rejecting bigger deals elsewhere.

The Redskins didn’t want to pay Cousins a certain amount because they believed it would be harder to build around him. Minnesota’s roster is already built. The Vikings could afford to overpay a guy if they view him as the final piece, one who could help them now and for a few years while in that Super Bowl window.

Jacksonville makes sense too, depending on what the Jaguars decide to do with Blake Bortles.

But there are some teams for which, if he signs, he’ll need help and hope the organization can provide what’s necessary.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have a new coach in Steve Wilks. But they also need a lot of help and don’t have much cap room (approximately $23 million). There’s another potential problem: They play in the NFC West, the same division as two of Cousins’ former coaches — the Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan. That doesn’t mean Cousins couldn’t play in Arizona and win, but he’d also enter four games each year facing two coaches who know him as well as anyone, especially what makes him uncomfortable. Cousins did play well enough in a victory over the Rams last season and he threw for 330 yards in beating the 49ers (winless at the time). But it makes winning harder.

New York Jets: With approximately $75 million in cap space, they can pay quite a bit for Cousins if they want; they can free up another $15 million or so with cuts. But signing Cousins doesn’t solve all their issues. Quarterback Josh McCown wasn’t the problem in the 13 games he played last season, throwing 18 touchdowns to nine interceptions with a passer rating of 94.5. He wasn’t a Pro Bowl player, but he played well and the Jets were 5-8 in games he started. New York lacks offensive playmakers; finding one with the sixth overall pick won’t be enough. They need a running back, tight end and offensive line help. They need to fix their defense, which ranked 22nd in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed.

Money alone has never solved problems in the NFL. Still, the Jets could always structure Cousins’ contract so it’s front-loaded, allowing them to build for the next several years. Then the question becomes: Can they? If Cousins signs here, it will test the belief that he wants to win. Sometimes a team offers so much money, it convinces players to believe that, yeah, they can win here (see: Redskins, 2000s). Having a coordinator in Jeremy Bates who has a reputation for being highly detailed — and who coached with Mike Shanahan, Cousins’ first coach — helps. Cousins met him once and he knows the system he runs. Winning in New York could make Cousins a king; losing there after signing a huge deal would do the opposite. Cousins would be betting on himself again, this time that he could elevate a franchise. He’d also be betting on the Jets to get him what he needs. Those are big bets.

Denver Broncos: If the Vikings and Jaguars don’t bid, then it could come down to the Broncos or the Jets. Denver has shown it can build a winner. The Broncos also have a good running game, ranking 12th in yards per game last season. They have a defense that ranked third in yards (but 22nd in points allowed). There’s a base to build around, plus they have the fifth overall pick. The problem for Denver will be creating necessary cap space. The Broncos not only don’t have a lot of room now — $25 million – they’re also in tough shape for 2019 (currently 29th in available space). Denver could release or trade players to create more room, but one of them would be receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Also, coach Vance Joseph ended his first season with rumors he could get fired. It’s a storied franchise, but it’s another gamble. And both sides will have to wonder the same thing: Given their cap situation, would signing Cousins prevent them from building for long-term success?

Cleveland Browns: This has never made sense for either side and there’s a good chance the Browns won’t even bid on Cousins. They have a chance to grab the best quarterback in a draft with several good prospects who, in a couple of years, could surpass Cousins. And they’d be much cheaper. From Cousins’ perspective: The Browns are a combined 1-31 and have the same head coach. End of story.

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Gardner Minshew’s mullet is no more

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Mondays are heavy days historically, but this one is particularly so because Gardner Minshew II‘s mullet is no more.

Yeah, Minshew may have gotten a hair cut yesterday, but this is the first I’m learning about it. So the pain is as fresh as if the stylist had just swept the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ backup quarterback’s fallen locks from the floor.

In what feels like the last remnant of a phenomenon once known as “Minshew Mania,” the former pride of Duval County chopped off his power source:

At the risk of sounding rash, it seems to me Trevor Lawrence came to town and basically told his new QB2 that there wasn’t enough room for both of their glorious heads of hair in that town and, well, we know who won that battle.

To be fair, I sort of knew this was going to happen as soon as Tim Tebow signed with the Jags.

Tebow, Lawrence’s mane AND one of the defining mullets of our generation? That’s just too much juice for one team.

Now, let us take one last look at Minshew’s former masterpiece for posterity:

In the haunting words of Michelle Branch: “Goodbye to you, goodbye to everything that I knew.”



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Minnesota Vikings expect DE Danielle Hunter at mandatory minicamp, source says

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings expect to have defensive end Danielle Hunter back in the fold this week during mandatory minicamp, a source told ESPN, after the Pro Bowl defensive end missed the team’s entire voluntary offseason program.

Hunter, 26, sat out the 2020 NFL season with a herniated disk that required surgery last October. At the time of his surgery, it was reported that the defensive end was unhappy with the state of his contract and wanted a reworked deal ahead of the 2021 season.

NFL Network, which first reported that Hunter planned to attend minicamp, is reporting that the Vikings and Hunter have agreed to terms on a reworked deal that will give the defensive end $5.6 million of the $12.75 million he is set to make in 2021 as a signing bonus. Hunter now has an $18 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

With $14.272 million in cap space, the Vikings moved up a significant amount of money to satisfy Hunter’s desire for more compensation in the short term while allowing both parties the time to work out a long-term extension following the 2021 season, NFL Network reported. The Vikings will need to make a decision on Hunter’s future by the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

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CB Stephon Gilmore doesn’t report for New England Patriots’ mandatory minicamp, source says

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, did not report to mandatory minicamp that began Monday, a source confirmed.

Gilmore could be making a statement about his contract, as he is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7 million in 2021.

The Patriots had advanced $4.5 million of Gilmore’s 2021 salary to him last year, leading to this year’s low figure.

Gilmore, who turns 31 in September, is in the final year of the five-year, $65 million pact he signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. The deal included $40 million in injury guarantees and $31 million fully guaranteed at signing.

At the time, a contract with those guarantees and an average of $13 million per season was viewed as a strong deal. The cornerback market has since exploded, with Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams topping it with a contract averaging $20 million per season.

Acknowledging they didn’t have specifics of the situation, teammates noted Gilmore’s absence in the locker room Monday, as well as on the practice field.

“I support my brother. I wish he was here, but I support him all the same,” veteran safety Adrian Phillips said. “What he has going, whenever he gets back here, he’ll let you know how it went.”

Longtime captain Matthew Slater added: “That’s a situation I don’t want to get too far into, because it’s frankly none of my business. Obviously you support all your teammates, whether they are here or not.”

Head coach Bill Belichick deflected questions on Gilmore earlier Monday and wouldn’t reveal whether he has given him (or any player) an excused absence. Players who don’t report for mandatory minicamp can be fined up to $93,085 — which breaks down to $15,515 for the first missed day, $31,030 for the second missed day and $46,540 for the third missed day.

Gilmore partially tore his quad in a Week 15 loss last season, landing on injured reserve.

The Boston Globe first reported Gilmore’s absence.

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