Kirk Cousins’ universal opinion changes by the week.
Some weeks, you can find Cousins after a game autographing various cleavages — both young and old — like Happy Gilmore after finishing 18.
And other weeks, you will find Cousins driving home in his Conversion Van dodging trash and other debris being hurled at him from the sidewalk.
Since his tenure with the team began, Vikings fans have been bipolar about their collective love for the current franchise quarterback, and even more so this year.
After a rough first few weeks that saw Cousins leading the league in interceptions at one point, he has since gone on an efficiency tear that has reminded the front office and fans alike why he was signed to such a large contract in the first place.
Post the week seven bye, Cousins has thrown for 986 yards, 9 touchdowns, and just 1 interception in four games. This recent performance has skyrocketed him to PFF’s sixth overall quarterback.
And really, that’s no surprise with throws like this:
Okay, now that's a 1️⃣0️⃣
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 22, 2020
Kid’s gonna be a superstar ⭐️
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) November 23, 2020
There’s no denying Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but the same questions have surrounded him since the start of his Vikings tenure:
Can he perform in high-pressure situations? Can he lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl? Is paying a quarterback $30 million to hand off to Dalvin Cook really the best use of the Vikings’ cap space?
As it stands, Kirk Cousins will earn $31 million for the 2021 season, making him the 9th highest-paid quarterback. And so far in the 2020 season, the Vikings rank dead last in pass attempts per game.
Barring a complete upheaval of the coaching staff and a drastic change in offensive philosophy — which, in all honesty, isn’t likely — the Vikings will utilize the same offensive strategy next year.
So, my question is this: is it really a smart decision to pay Kirk Cousins top-10 quarterback money, let alone in a system that doesn’t put the ball in his hands?
Earlier in the season, talks about getting off Cousins’ contract were met with hostility and despair because the Vikings would most likely have to attach assets to move him.
Think back to 2017, when the Texans had to throw in a second-round pick just to get off of Brock Osweiler’s contract and send him to the Browns.
Arif Hasan writes about Cousins’ contract in this article from The Athletic:
“It’s a contract that the only realistic out is to trade and the only realistic year to trade is next year. If they trade him next year it can be sold as a two-year, $28-million-per-year contract to the acquiring team. Even with his shortcomings, that would be considered pretty reasonable. That would leave the Vikings with a more manageable $20 million in dead money in 2021 and none in 2022. If they wait a year, I’m not sure any team would want a one-year flier for $35 million for Cousins unless he came off a great year.”
And this was written after week 3, in which the Vikings were 0-3 and Kirk Cousins looked as ineffectual as ever. But luckily for the Vikings, Cousins has been on fire as of late and has rebounded his potential trade value.
Should the Vikings decide to get off Cousins’ contract after this year — and if he sustains his current level of play — his two-year $28-million-per-year contract will be considered a positive asset to many teams in the market for a quarterback.
Now, am I saying the Vikings should trade Cousins after this season while the iron is hot? Not necessarily. While Cousins may never be a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, disposing of him after this year could do more harm than good to the 2021 Vikings season.
That being said, there’s no denying the Vikings are in a strenuous cap position. With a cap hit of $31 million and $45 million in 2021 and 2022, respectively, the team will seemingly need to eventually extend Cousins again for a more favorable cap situation, or move on in the offseason.
The opportunity of a trade looks much more realistic now than earlier in the season, and the Vikings will have a lot of thinking to do once the sands of the 2020 hourglass run dry.