As I’ve argued a few times recently, the Vikings have two super major pressing issues this off-season, things that should(‘ve) been taken care of before anything else (including free agency, which as you all know begins on the 18th of this month). Those topics, 1A and 1B as I’ve dubbed them, are the extensions of quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Dalvin Cook, respectively.
Beyond what I’ve written, I’ve said on KLGR Radio’s ‘The Scoop’ with sexy man-beast Seth Toupal as recently as Wednesday that I wouldn’t want to be the person who has to make the decision as to whether the franchise should extend each and what amount they should spend on either. That’s before the daunting task ahead of the powers that be in Eagan regarding the nearly 20 pending free agents this off-season (or week?) and… $20 in cap space that the team had to do it.
Maybe we can start a GoFundMe for the Vikings? I thought?
Then the reckoning that was today’s news that the team had cut veterans Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph, and David Morgan to free up some much-needed cap space ($18.6 million between Rhodes and Joseph, with a dead cap hit of $7.2 million), which may have altered what I thought was going to be the first announced major move after Everson Griffen was allowed to opt-out of his deal, but doesn’t really change the crux of the major point. Which, some of you out there who can read beyond a 4th-grade level may be shouting at your screen is something that typically gets introduced in the first paragraph.
That’s not my style. Mainly because I still am catching up on that workbook from Third Grade (Sorry Mrs. Smith! My multiple dogs who have all died of old age since all ate it?)!
That lack of cap space is what gave Cousins the edge in my A v. B ranking, as some believe that if the team extends Cousins they’ll be able to lower his 2020 cap hit. I’m not so sure that’d be the case, though, as Cousins signed a three-year deal specifically to make more money, not less. He understood, correctly, that his 2018 deal would reset the market for quarterbacks in the NFL and that after those three seasons he’d be able to cash in yet again.
None of that, to me, screams any sort of pay reduction (outside, perhaps, of Cousins realizing that 2020 might be the last good chance this team has to make a run and so he’ll take one for the team (literally) by lowering his 2020 cap hit, but that assumes that Cousins wants to stay in Minnesota after 2020, which is a BIG If (as I discussed yesterday)).
Anysnarf, people have recently discussed the B in that scenario, Dalvin Cook, and what he may be worth and whether or not he’s worth extending. Some scenarios have the Vikings valuing Cook at somewhere between $8 and $10 million a season after his rookie deal expires after 2020, whereas it is believed that he may think that his 2019 season elevated him to the rarified air that only four other running backs currently breathe, the $13-to-$15 million dollar a season… Atmosphere.
Adam Patrick of TheVikingAge.com wrote an interesting piece about this a couple of days ago and I thought it’d be worth walking through that masterpiece with you all who may not have read it. But first, I highly suggest that you take a gander at what he put together, as I’m going to be bee bopping and scatting (to quote George Costanza) on a lot of it and so it might make it easier if we’re all on the same page (I also feel a strange sense of guilt when I paraphrase other people’s work (thanks a lot, stupid conscience)).
Here it is in all its glory:
We can actually summarize Patrick’s/Sharp Football Analysis’ argument relatively quickly. He looked at teams that have given at least 17.5% of their salary cap to their quarterback and running back, and the success (or lack thereof) that they’ve had. As he correctly points out, it’d only take a salary cap hit of $4 million in 2020 for Cook and Cousins to hit that mark, so should they end up extending Cousins somewhere in the $31-$35 million per season amount while also extending Cook in the $8 to $15 million range, you’d essentially be giving a quarter or so of your teams’ salary cap to two players.
The last time I checked, and it’s been a while, each team has 55 players on its roster during the regular season.
In case you needed another reason as to why this seems like a bad idea… Patrick points out that “of the 11 teams [since 2011] who fell into this category, nine of them ended up missing the playoffs with a losing record.”
So, that opens up the question as to whether or not it’d make sense to sign either Cousins or Cook. I’m sure you all know exactly where my chips will fall in that argument, as I’ve essentially covered Cousins so much in the past two seasons that he has grounds for a restraining order. But it’s not just because I like me some Cousins. But, outside of one or two scenarios, it makes more sense to hang onto a franchise quarterback than a running back in today’s NFL. When it comes to the Vikings, though, the situation lends itself even MORE to keeping Cousins than Cook.
Cook has yet to complete a 16-game season in his three-year career and while he has shown (extended) flashes of brilliance, especially in 2019, his inability to finish a complete season is something that is going to get worse, not better, as he ages and accrues touches/hits. One could also make the argument that his breakout season in 2019 had as much to do with the zone blocking scheme rolled out by Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison, then solely how amazing Cook is. Talented as he may be, you never got the sense that he was doing things on his own at least on the level of Adrian Peterson (who famously would face eight or nine-man boxes and still get his each week).
Then there’s Cousins, the more divisive player in team history. The Vikings have a poor man’s Cook in the soon-to-be second-year player (and at least during his time in college, a player who showed an ability to be a workhorse and stay healthy (albeit for under 16 games a season)) Alexander Mattison, but nothing behind Cousins (as of the writing of this article) that could remotely replace his 2019 output. I mean, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with the Vikings chances with a Cousins/Mattison combo than, let’s say, a Sean Mannion/nameless rookie and Cook combo.
Love him or hate him, the reality with Cousins is that when he is provided with time he is able to put up some daunting numbers. He knocked down negative narrative after negative narrative in 2019, despite playing behind the 27th-ranked pass blocking unit in the NFL (according to PFF). If the Vikings are able to shore up the left side of the line in the draft (as opposed to, what, trading up for one of the four QB’s projected (by some) to go in the top six picks), they still may be able to make a run, especially with Kubiak and company now having complete control of how the offense runs.
If they are able to shore up the left side of the line, as well, one could argue that Mattison would have an even better shot at filling any void left from Cook’s absence, as the passing game would be even more dangerous (opening up things on the ground) and if the left side was anywhere near the right in terms of it’s run blocking, then… You get the idea.
Or, the Vikings could just wait to see how 2020 plays out (assuming that it does play out, thanks, Wuhan China), as who knows, perhaps Cousins will end up in San Francisco and this article will end up being a waste of digital ink. It wouldn’t be the first time something I wrote online didn’t age well, as, for example, I said my New Year’s Resolution in 2020 was to stop ending articles with random stories about how bad I am at predicting the NFL.
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