Better Safe Than Sorry at Quarterback?

For the Vikings, there is no easy answer.

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.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. This is pretty much it, exactly. Cousins is the best option the Viking’s could hope to have right now. They have to at least TRY to get him. And the beauty of it is, that Cousins isn’t so great that we all have to feel heartbroken over missing out on him should it go that way either. Vikings won’t lose a single elite player they drafted over this either. Kirk’s record setting deal is going to look like a bargain in just a couple years when he’s eligible for FA again.

    1. Who will be the Vikings QB if they don’t get Cousins? To assume that Case will come running is a miscalculation esp since the Vikings and esp Zimmer have made an effort to devalue him.
      I hope that he can be signed as the starter else where, esp Denver.

      1. Denver is certainly looking like Keenum’s new home, with Buffalo now getting some talk as Bradford’s next destination due to his scheme fit there.

        I don’t think Keenum would rule Minnesota out completely, even given Zimmer’s lukewarm comments about him. Case seems to have a pretty cool head on his shoulders, and maybe a touch more maturity than Teddy, too.

  2. Cousins will turn out to be a bust for the Vikings. He will not fit well with what had been excellent team chemistry. Case Keenum was the best choice for many reasons.If Keenum is not the QB for the Vikings in 2018, I am done as a Vikings fan. I am tired of this organization shooting itself in the foot. And, enough is enough.

  3. This article certainly didn’t sugar coat it, but yeah, I agree with most of the above. Though I like what Cousins brings to the table a little more than the author, and I think DeFilippo will put him in a great position to win. Lets see if we can actually land him, if in fact that is what Spielman/Zim want in the first place. I’ll get behind whatever we do. SKOL

    1. That $27 million per year figure is smart, too, because it “proves” that Cousins is less concerned about setting a new annual average record ($27.5 +) and more about winning. Even if he matches Garoppolo’s $27.5 million annual average, or only slightly beats it, that’s still better public relations than forcing a bidding war to make him the NFL’ s first 30 Million Dollar Man.

  4. Or sorry than safe. While Cousins is arguably a better passer than Keenum, what is less sure is he a better quarterback, esp for the Vickings. As we know the measure of team success or failure is solely win-loss results. It is certainly a easy to over look what Keenum contributed to the success of this team in 2017 and it is very tenuous to assume that Cousins will possess the other things that are necessary to have a successful season.
    I believe that the option to sign Case is gone in that I as well as Case would not sign with Zimmer given the show and expression of no confidence. I hope that Keenum can sign with a team, esp Denver as their predetermined starting QB and he can finally establish that he is a good starting QB
    in this. The Vikings sign him as a back and will forever deem him as such.
    I have followed Keenum along time and I felt that his time had come with the Vikings and it is a shame that the Vikings thought differently. I think that they will on some occaisions second guess their decision.

    1. “Vickings”; is that a reference to Michael Vick, or did an ‘ack’ get stuck in there? Regardless; I think the grittiness of Keenum is underestimated. I believe that Case and Cousins are almost equal. I do not believe the difference in price will give increased returns. I think that Case’s performance (if with the Vikings) will be better in 2018; having already been in the system for a full year. I believe any team that signs Cousins will not radically improve. I want to see what Bridgewater can do.

  5. Here’s to drinking your piss in the desert! Dilly, Dilly. How could Cousins do better than Keenum? Remember, Spielman was the guy that kept sticking with Ponder. That was an effing nightmare period, an all time low in Vikings football. Cousins seems like a stupid Vikings thing to do. O-line, slot corner, D tackle, big WR. The QB was working. I wanted Bridgewater in the wings. I guess they don’t care what I want.