I’ll get this out of the way now: I’m all for the Minnesota Vikings throwing a boatload of money at Kirk Cousins. Regardless of my preference — or any other fan’s wishes — the team is going to spend its abundance of cash somewhere, and almost all signs point to that somewhere being Cousins’ bank account.
If you listen to the rumors on Twitter, Cousins and the Vikings already have a deal in place; a contract worth $27 million per year that will immediately make him one of the NFL’s richest quarterbacks. Details are sparse — as they should be — because the league’s official tampering period doesn’t begin for another hour, making any agreed-upon deal a violation of negotiating rules.
Pretend there isn’t a dotted line waiting to be signed, that Minnesota’s front office and Cousins’ camp have followed all the rules. While I highly doubt it, it’s certainly plausible that any mutual interest is the creation of agents, media members, and other parties with a stake in this saga’s outcome. Again, I doubt that’s the case, and very much believe the Vikings and Cousins are minutes from finalizing a lucrative contract, both for the team and the player.
It’s obviously a win-win deal for Cousins — he’d reset an already expensive quarterback market while leading a playoff, even Super Bowl-contending team. For the Vikings, they’d have security at a position of historic volatility, locking in the 29-year-old Cousins to man Minnesota’s new-look offense.
Part of that security comes from Cousins’ own good fortune — he’d arrive with a clean bill of health, having avoided any major injuries in his relatively young career. To any other franchise, that’s just another box to mark on the free agent checklist. To Mike Zimmer and the Vikings, it’s a luxury.
Rarely does such a player hit the open market, and rarely is such a competitive, complete team in position to acquire said player. While the Vikings may not have the cap flexibility of the New York Jets, Minnesota is certainly the ideal landing spot for a quarterback looking to win now, and win his first Super Bowl. More importantly, Ben Goessling reported Minnesota not only has the ability to make Cousins a rich man, but can do so while keeping its young core of defensive stars in place.
But if the Vikings deem Cousins worthy of a lavish contract, there are ways for them to pay him and retain enough cash for their other needs.
Whether you think Cousins is an elite quarterback (he’s not) or see him as a product of scheme (he is), it ultimately comes down to the Vikings and their front office. We as a fanbase, no matter the kicking, screaming, and angry tweeting, have no say in how Rick Spielman proceeds with this impending decision.
Given his track record building the rest of the roster, it’s a bit foolish to question Spielman’s intentions as he pursues the best quarterback to hit free agency in years. Take a look up and down the depth chart and find a position of weakness. One could argue offensive line, but again, the Vikings are ahead of the curve in their own rebuild, with options aplenty to continue the fortification through this year’s NFL Draft. Every other position is average, at worst, with more than enough upside to sustain current success.
At the time of his selection, Teddy Bridgewater was supposed to be the next great prospect after Andrew Luck. He showed plenty of promise and was touted as the team’s franchise quarterback, but suffered a now-infamous knee injury; an injury that surely factored into his decline and soon-to-be exodus from Minnesota. When Spielman traded for Sam Bradford, he was lambasted, but the move existed out of necessity. Like Bridgewater, Bradford had the look of a long-term option at quarterback until his knee disintegrated, leaving the Vikings searching for answers.
Case Keenum, for all of his newfound success, likability, and chemistry, is not the answer. If you’re reading the tea leaves or looking for clues, they point in one direction — Kirk Cousins suiting up in purple and gold. And, really, what’s so bad about that? Maybe I’m suffering from some version of football Stockholm Syndrome — convincing myself Cousins is talented enough to take the Vikings to the Super Bowl — but he’s undoubtedly an upgrade over the guy who won the team 13 games last season.
Yes, I know the box score is a mirage; 4,000-yard and even 5,000-yard seasons don’t matter when your career record is 26-30-1. Stacked up against the NFL’s agreed-upon elites, Cousins isn’t one of Pro Football Focus’s top quarterbacks — at 15, he barely scratches the upper half of all franchise passers. But in a league dictated — and soon to be dominated — by high-priced passers, why wait for the market to explode even further when you can secure the position now?
Cousins will undoubtedly come with a bit of buyer’s remorse. He’ll throw interceptions. He won’t step up in the pocket, losing a fumble on a critical drive. He’ll miss an open receiver underneath. But he’ll also throw touchdowns. He’ll run for a few more. He’ll give the Vikings a cornerstone on offense, a player they can continue to build around while focusing on other positions of need.
I don’t love the idea of Cousins in Minnesota, but I’m ready for a change. No more questions about X player’s knee or Y player’s arm strength. We know what we’re getting in Cousins, and even if the team waits to sign someone next year, they’ll be paying more than they should, or more than you’d be comfortable spending on one player. Now is the time.