The Jacksonville Jaguars lost 15 consecutive games to end the 2020 season, thus being awarded with the first overall pick. General consensus has the Jags picking one of either Trevor Lawrence (most likely) or Justin Fields with that first pick.
With that, 2019’s breakout quarterback and the NFL’s mustached sweetheart seems to have fallen from grace and is no longer part of Jacksonville’s plan. Of course, I’m talking about Gardner Minshew. And yes, I’m saying the Vikings should make a deal to bring the Mississippi Mustache and all his mania to Minnesota.
The former sixth-round pick (an area that Jacksonville apparently always finds great players in) broke onto the NFL scene in week one of 2019 against the Chiefs. After Nick Foles went down with a broken clavicle, Minshew came into the game down 17-7 and proceeded to go 22/25 for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
He did just about everything he could have done against the juggernaut that is Kansas City, but it wasn’t enough as the Jags lost 40-26. Still, the fire had been lit, and Minshew Mania was off and rolling. He would end up going 6-6 as a starter in 2019, but his 2020 campaign was driven off the map by injuries, inconsistent coaching decisions, and bad play around him.
Low Risk, High Reward
This is going to be the meat and potatoes of my argument. Minshew’s trade value is going to be considerably lower than others on the market (or even in the draft) because, well, the Jaguars already have their eyes on his replacement. His value is virtually that of a backup quarterback at this point, and anyone that gives Jacksonville more than that is being swindled.
If anyone remembers that far back, I wrote near the trade deadline that I thought it would be a mistake for the Vikings to trade for Sam Darnold. A Minshew trade would be completely different, though. For one, there would be much more pressure for the 2018 third overall pick to be getting starter reps right away. Meanwhile, it would be fine for Minshew to sit behind Cousins for a year or two and learn the offense.
Secondly, Darnold’s cap hit of $9.79 million far outweighs Minshew’s fewer than $900k. It isn’t out of the ordinary for the backup QB to make that type of money, either. In fact, the Vikings paid Sean Mannion a little over $1 million in 2020. Having Minshew as a backup plan would in fact save Minnesota money while giving them better talent. Minshew doesn’t ever have to step on the field for this move to be worth it.
That said, should the Vikings have a desire to bring him back post-Kirk Cousins, they could get away with paying him less than the going rate of quarterbacks due to his backup role. With a new payroll where the quarterback isn’t making $30-40 million, the team would have much more flexibility in filling out the rest of the roster.
The Skill Set
Ever since Minshew came into the league, I have been a fan of his game. He has a sort of “it” factor to him. Minshew doesn’t seem scared of the moment, and he doesn’t make many mistakes. While he has some erratic throws, his overall accuracy makes up for that. In fact, he might be similar to a younger version of Kirk Cousins if Cousins was more mobile and could make more out of broken down plays. In fact, here is a comparison of Cousins’ 2014 and 2015 seasons to Minshew’s first two seasons.
22 Games, 505/747, 5876 yards, 39 TDs, 20 INTs
23 Games, 501/797, 5530 yards, 37 TDs, 11 INTs
The difference is, Minshew gained 497 yards with his legs in this time while Cousins ran for just 68 yards. His ability to make plays with his legs shows flashes of a young Brett Favre. I’m not saying he is a young Brett Favre right now, but under a good coaching staff and a competent team, that’s what he could become.
The biggest knocks on Minshew during his young career have been inconsistency (especially in 2020) and the lack of a deep ball. I will counter the inconsistency argument with this: how can you possibly be consistent when you are suffering from injuries and play for a team that is TRYING to lose?
Going back to 2019, he had two objectively bad games out of his 14 played. One came against one of the top defenses in New Orleans, and the other came against division rival Houston. He was immediately benched after the Houston game. How can you be a consistent player when you don’t have the backing of your coaching staff?
Not only that, but of Minshew’s 23 career games, he has been sacked 60 times. Drew Brees has been sacked 25 times over his last 23 games. Minshew’s offensive line has done virtually nothing to protect him. Again, how can you be consistent when your o-line does nothing?
The offensive line is certainly a concern right now in Minnesota. However, it should be a focus over the next few seasons. If the Vikings can get that back up to snuff, Minshew should be much more comfortable if he ever steps in as a starter post-Cousins.
As for his deep ball, he may not have the strongest arm in the world, but it is extremely accurate. In 2019, PFF ranked Minshew’s deep pass as the third best in the league. He completed 49% of his passes and averaged 16.7 yards per attempt on throws over 20 yards. For reference, Deshaun Watson completed 44.6% of those passes for 15.1 yards per attempt in 2019 with DeAndre Hopkins. Kirk Cousins also completed 39.3% for 14.1 yards per attempt.
Obviously, Kirk Cousins is the quarterback of the present in Minnesota. He has also been an ironman throughout his career. That said, all it takes is one bad hit or one fluky step for him to no longer be an ironman. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a backup with some skill who isn’t Trevor Siemian or Sean Mannion?
Like I said, it wouldn’t take much to get him, either. The Vikings have a plethora of Day Three picks this year. Would it be that bad if they used a fifth rounder to get him? Or maybe even a late fourth rounder? I don’t think so. Bring the Mississippi Mustache to Minnesota.