DENVER -- Aaron Rodgers. Matt Ryan. Kirk Cousins.
Not even sandpaper could wipe the smiles off their faces. Thanks, Jimmy G.
It's hard to figure who is the most pleased with Jimmy Garoppolo's five-year, $137.5 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
Rodgers, Ryan, and, more specifically, Cousins are up next.
Garoppolo's contract takes your breath away given his limited resume -- 7-0 as a starter with New England and San Francisco. However, it should not come as a surprise. Good quarterbacks never make less when teams identify them as the face of the franchise.
Garoppolo emerged as a star at the right time for the right team. His season-ending finish convinced the 49ers he was The Man, and investing in him makes them a destination for future free agents.
Money matters here when considering the Broncos' pursuit of their top target Cousins. According to Spotrac, Garoppolo received a $35 million signing bonus with $74.1 million guaranteed. His average annual value calculates to $27.5 million with a $37 million cap hit in 2018. Cousins should rightly expect a similar deal and guarantees over the first three seasons. However, if winning is his top priority -- and he has indicated as much -- Cousins would need to reduce his cap hit the first two seasons. If he absorbs the cap like Garoppolo, the Broncos would be sinking nearly 30 percent of their payroll into Cousins and Von Miller. That makes no sense.
If Cousins goes to a contender I believe he will show flexibility with his contract. Remember, numbers cannot be discussed until March 12, with deals becoming official on May 14.
Cousins is a solid quarterback. He ranks in my top 10. He has shown the ability to lead and work with a varying stable of receivers, while exhibiting much-needed durability despite a shaky offensive line. And, oh yeah, he can lead a fourth-quarter comeback drive as well as any current quarterback.
The Broncos' offense needs a caffeine drip, requires a lobotomy, or at least an identity. Cousins' skill and personality would be a welcomed addition.
Denver has as good a chance as any to land the quarterback, who will likely be pursued by the Jets, Browns, Cardinals, Jaguars and the sleeper Vikings. If the Broncos sign Cousins, I expect them to keep veteran receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
If not Cousins, then what? Broncos players wonder if the team will rebuild if they don't sign the veteran, going younger across the board. In that scenario, one of the veteran receivers could become a casualty, among others.
It remains an understandable concern for older players, but the Broncos never use the word patience. I will believe in a youth movement when I see it.
There is, however, no guarantee the Broncos sign Cousins. What are the other options?
Minnesota's Case Keenum is on the radar, according to multiple sources. Front office executive Gary Kubiak knows Keenum well, having coached him in Houston. The issue with Keenum remains simple: Can the Broncos justify a Brock Osweiler-type contract -- four years, $72 million -- for a player who was 9-15 as a starter with 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions prior to last season?
After Keenum, the conversation appears to change. The next alternative? A placeholder for a top draft pick. Tyrod Taylor fits the bill, just not the Bills. They have been looking to move on from him for two seasons. Taylor takes care of the ball (51 touchdowns, 18 interceptions as a starter), and has unique scrambling ability.
Taylor played one of his best games in a win over the Broncos last September, acting like a point guard. He drew in the defense with his mobility and dished to open receivers, befuddling the safeties. As the Broncos head coach, Kubiak tried to bring Taylor to Denver after he impressed him when they worked together for one season in Baltimore.
The quarterback conversation dominates the Broncos offseason. This is not talk radio goosing the topic. General manager John Elway admitted the team has no chance to rebound without improvement at the position.
Cousins sits atop the wish list. He could change the Broncos' fortunes. And with Garoppolo secured in San Francisco, Denver knows the price of doing business.