By Chris Lingebach

If Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins reaches free agency, at least nine teams are possible suitors that could escalate his contract to nearly $30 million annually.

Denver, Jacksonville, Arizona, New York Jets and Buffalo will seek passers over the offseason while the New York Giants and Jets, plus Minnesota and Pittsburgh, are possible bidders. Even if Cousins’ former Redskins offensive coordinators — now at San Francisco and the Los Angeles Rams — are no longer bidders, there are plenty of options.

Snider: Cousins Doesn’t ‘Know How It’s Going To End’

The Redskins have until March 6 to designate Cousins as a franchise or transition tag player. Cousins told 106.7 The Fan on Friday he would await the Redskins’ decision before deciding whether to discuss a long-term contract or simply play the third and final season under the tag. Meanwhile, Cousins said he’ll research possible teams should the Redskins not apply the tag.

Citing his desire to win being comparable to a big contract that will surely pay at least $85 million over the first three years, Cousins’ top markets should be Jacksonville and Denver, with Minnesota and Pittsburgh possible.

While Jacksonville’s front office has publicly backed quarterback Blake Bortles as it readies for the AFC Divisional playoffs on Sunday, the Jags would majorly upgrade with Cousins. Denver is a quarterback away from returning to the postseason.

Minnesota’s three quarterbacks become free agents over the offseason. The Vikings won’t miss Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater, but Case Keenum might also depart if Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur becomes a head coach elsewhere. That would leave Minnesota joining the Cousins race. The same goes if Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger retires.

Cousins’ Group B targets may include Buffalo and Arizona. Buffalo lost in the playoffs on Sunday after posting three points under Tyrod Taylor. Cousins is from Michigan, so cold weather won’t scare him. Arizona could be a playoff contender with a top passer, too, following Carson Palmer’s retirement.

Group C belongs to the two New York teams. If the Giants and Eli Manning split, Cousins might help New York rebound into postseason contention. The Jets have several crummy passers and would certainly welcome an upgrade, but they’re not close to winning.

Group D is Cleveland. All Cousins needs to do is to call former teammate Robert Griffin III to learn careers end in Cleveland, not blossom. Besides, the Browns have the No. 1 pick to use on yet another passer. Still, signing Cousins would let the Browns use that No. 1 elsewhere. An 0-16 team isn’t exactly what Cousins meant when referring to winning, though.

Even if Cousins can’t directly sign with another team, there’s always the chance of a tag-and-trade by Washington to gain some compensation. Cousins would likely work a deal with the new team beforehand to ensure the trade.

It seems even Cousins isn’t quite sure where he’ll play this season with staying in Washington possible. But, a potential free agency tour will need a national map.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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