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'We think he'll end up in Minnesota': Vikings emerge as favorites to land Kirk Cousins at NFL Combine

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is congratulated by fans after the game against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field. The Washington Redskins won 26 - 20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings increasingly are viewed within the NFL as a top contender to sign quarterback Kirk Cousins when the league's free agent market opens later this month.

Several agents who don't represent Cousins but who have knowledge of the upcoming market for quarterbacks said they consider the Vikings the favorite to sign Cousins, who's eligible for unrestricted free agency after three straight 4,000-yard passing seasons for the Washington Redskins.

An executive with one NFL team expected to be in the market for a quarterback said he also expects Cousins to pick the Vikings.

"We think he'll end up in Minnesota," that executive said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Cousins technically is not available at this point.

There also remains some sentiment across the league that the Denver Broncos and New York Jets will make strong bids to sign Cousins.

The Redskins said this week they have no plans to franchise-tag Cousins with the intention of trading him. The Redskins already have lined up Cousins's replacement by agreeing to trade cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith, the NFL's top-rated passer this past season. That trade cannot become official until March 14, also the day the free agent market formally opens.

The Vikings are looking for a new starter with quarterbacks Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater all eligible for free agency.

Keenum took advantage of the injury-related absences of Bradford and Bridgewater last season to become the Vikings' starter and emerge as a breakout NFL star. His standout play put him on the fringe of the league MVP conversation, and he took the Vikings to the NFC title game before a lopsided loss at Philadelphia.

The Vikings reportedly do not intend to use their franchise-player tag on Keenum. There has been some confusion about Bridgewater's status because of the possibility that the league and the Vikings could contend that his limited availability last season could result in his contract being rolled over into next season. But the Vikings have called that a league matter and the NFL reportedly will allow him to be a free agent.

Signing with the Vikings would enable Cousins to join a team with enough talent at other positions to be a clear Super Bowl contender. He widely is expected to sign a contract that will surpass the record five-year, $137.5 million deal that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo just signed to remain with the San Francisco 49ers.

Other possible bidders for Cousins include the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals. The Jacksonville Jaguars removed themselves from the field of teams pursuing Cousins when they signed Blake Bortles to a new three-year contract.

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