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Kirk Cousins gathers info on new teams as NFL free agent negotiating window opens

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks on from the sideline during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL's "legal tampering" window officially opening at noon on Monday, speculation about Kirk Cousins' next landing spot - and his process for choosing it - kicked into high gear. Contrary to one report, Cousins hasn't ruled out making a visit, or visits, to his potential suitors this week.

The plan, according to a person familiar with Cousins' thought process, is to discuss potential offers and situations Monday and Tuesday, during the designated window for preliminary talks between NFL teams and players' representatives. Based on those talks, Cousins will determine whether to pay a visit to potential employers to tour facilities, meet with the front-office representatives, head coaches, offensive coordinators and other team personnel.

Before that process gets under way in earnest, Cousins posted a note of appreciation to Washington Redskins fans, coaches and the front office for their support during his six years in Washington.

"After calling Washington home for the past six years, the team has decided to move on to another option and, in turn, my family and I will be moving on as well," Cousins wrote in his seven-paragraph blog post on his website, KirkCousins.org, that was titled, "Farewell, Washington."

He recalled fond memories with teammates, voiced his debt to Mike Shanahan for his faith in drafting him in 2012, called his experience in Washington "a dream come true" and wrote that he and his family would "always have a piece of Washington deep in our hearts."

Noting that he still had much to learn and prove, Cousins wrote: "There is no way I would be where I am today without the leadership of the Redskins organization . . . Coach Gruden, Bruce Allen, Dan Snyder. Thank you all for the opportunity you gave me."

But it was two tags among the nearly two dozen listed at the bottom of Cousins' post (likely search terms designed to steer a target audience to the post via Internet search engines) that drew most comment nearly the moment the blog was posted. Cousins included "jets" and "vikings" among his general list of terms such as "faith," "family," "farewell," "kirk cousins" and "new team." Within an hour, the "jets" and "vikings" tags were removed, leaving no potential destination for the quarterback among the search terms.

Cousins is believed to have narrowed his list of landing spots to the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.

Cousins, 29, who led the Washington Redskins to the NFC East title in 2015, earned Pro Bowl honors in 2016 and threw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his three seasons as the team's starting quarterback, is regarded as the most sought-after free agent among this season's crop. During his NFL tenure, he developed a reputation as a diligent student regarding every facet of quarterback play - dogged about pursuing any tip, tactic or training tool that could help him raise his performance. It's difficult to imagine he would pass on an opportunity to meet and speak to his next employer and coaches first-hand before making what he called in his farewell blog-post "one of the bigger decisions of my life."

That suggests it may be Thursday, or later, before a decision is reached on where Cousins will play after spending the first six years of his career in Washington - the first four under a rookie deal that paid him roughly $600,000 per year and the last two under back-to-back NFL franchise tags worth a total of roughly $44 million.

No new NFL contracts can be signed before Wednesday at 4 p.m., the start of the NFL's new league year.

Interest in Cousins's next team has been considerable, even among the NFL's players. The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website founded by sportswriter Bill Simmons, is posting a rolling "Kirk Cousins free-agency thirst index," based in part on the number of overtures aimed at Cousins via social media from players on his would-be suitors' rosters.

Denver wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, as the site noted, tweeted in response to a Cousins tweet soliciting advice on where he should sign, that he, fellow receiver Demaryius Thomas and Cousins would make a "dangerous" combination.

Broncos linebacker Von Miller has been campaigning for Cousins to sign with Denver almost since the 2017 season ended, telling virtually anyone who will listen why Cousins could change the team's fortunes. "I'm all in 100 percent," Miller said of signing Cousins, in an interview with NFL.com. "This is a big time for Denver and a big time for the National Football League. You don't really have, especially quarterbacks, become free like that."

Earlier this offseason, Cousins posted his own photo of himself with Cardinals veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, after the two ran into each other at Atlanta's airport, with a caption that read: "Ran into Fitz in the airport yesterday. He's a GREAT recruiter!"

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