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Jets happy with Sam Darnold, don't regret losing on Kirk Cousins

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The Jets missed on their first target in free agency this past offseason, a big swing at the top quarterback available. And they couldn't be happier.

From all sides in the organization, it's unanimous that the Jets are pleased that it worked out as it did. As the Vikings come into town to take on Gang Green today, it's Kirk Cousins vs. the man who ended up in his place -- No. 3 pick Sam Darnold. And while the Jets clearly wanted Cousins first, their Plan B seems to be working out just fine.

There were some rumblings this week about how the Jets felt slighted by or used by Cousins. Yet it doesn't seem to be the case.

Sure, he spurned them in free agency, but he simply chose another team for $28 million per year, compared to the Jets' offer of $30M per year. Could the Jets have caused an upset by offering a contract well past $30 million a year? Perhaps. But we'll never know.

What we do know is the Jets go into Sunday's game at peace with landing the QB who was by far their No. 1 on their draft board, a pick they never believed they'd be able to make. Most of their scenarios had Darnold going to the Browns or Giants.

How did it happen? The Jets' Plan A going into free agency was about Cousins, though they knew they were the long shot. Minnesota had a ready-made roster and few holes, coming off an NFC Championship Game appearance. The Jets were rebuilding.

Before free agency, they had two plans.

Once Cousins didn't visit, they pivoted and followed the plan made famous by Eagles executive VP of Football Operation Howie Roseman by trading up as high in the draft in order to find a QB they were comfortable selecting.

They had three they liked, so they traded to No. 3, sending a package of picks to the Colts -- just a few weeks after Cousins signed in Minnesota. They largely assumed they would end up with Baker Mayfield, who has impressed with the Browns. Only early in draft week did they realize they could nab Darnold.

Cousins might have hit the ground running with the Jets -- at home with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates -- while Darnold will take time. With Cousins, they also would've had their second-round draft picks instead of trading them. But with Darnold, they have more money to spend (on free agents like Trumaine Johnson) in 2019 and beyond. And they have the potential of Darnold, who they believe will be great. Either way, the Jets will take it.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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