To the nanosecond that Deshaun Watson was rumored to want out of Houston, fanbases – including the Minnesota Vikings – decided that the 25-year-old was headed to their city. Watson is close to a generational talent (a term often floated way too liberally).
Rarely do show-stopping quarterbacks want a change of scenery. When they do, the situation is typically shrouded in an injury veil (see Peyton Manning) or conflicting perception of a player (see Kirk Cousins). Watson checks none of those boxes.
Behind Patrick Mahomes, this year’s edition of Aaron Rodgers, and perhaps Russell Wilson, Watson’s name universally resides on lists as the league’s fourth-best quarterback, although Josh Allen may be rapidly gunning for the spot. Therefore, when a player like Watson sniffs “get me out of here” territory, the NFL becomes a live broadcast of Shark Week with all of the chum in the water.
The Vikings current quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is mostly interpreted as the right leader of the offense. But for those that disagree, they do so with the fury of hell on their fingerprints. It is seldom that a player like Cousins boasts indisputably commendable numbers (4,235 passing yards and 35 touchdowns in 2020) while remaining a lightning rod for criticism. Unfortunately, Cousins does generate those squabbles among fans. Hell, onlookers with no stake in the Vikings success or failure even opine. Sometimes, Cousins is even the punchline of jokes – welcome to The Digital Age.
Watson is a better franchise quarterback than Kirk Cousins. The debate begins when measuring the “by how much” margin of the comparison. And because a healthy section of the Vikings community is not wholly sold on Cousins’ abilities, Minnesota has, by default, joined The Watson Sweepstakes – at least theoretically.
Would Watson actually be traded to the Vikings? The concise retort to this flirtatious question is “possibly but extremely unlikely.”
A Biblical Price Tag
If Deshaun Watson is to play for a different team in 2021, the ransom to be paid by his new team will be unprecedented, ungodly, and unthinkable. The folks that poked fun at the Mitchell Trubisky trade-up of 2017, Herschel Walker trade, or Robert Griffin III swap of picks from 2012 will have a field day with the price tag for Watson.
The haul will rattle the palms in one’s hand when the notification hits cellular phones. General Manager Rick Spielman has shown a prowess to move-and-shake on draft nights pertaining to trades, but there is no evidence to suggest he wants to sell the majority stake of the Vikings on-field roster for a quarterback – especially when the team has a damn productive one already. On paper, the Vikings either broke even or slightly won the Stefon Diggs trade, so that cannot be adequately referenced as a Watson analogy.
Spielman might be on the hot seat with his tenure in Minnesota. Rocking the boat, betting the farm, or admitting wrongdoing for the Cousins acquisition is unlikely to serve his best interests.
MIN + HOU = Offensive Line Woes
The popular Spider-man meme can be inserted to compare the recent history of the Vikings and Texans offensive lines. Both squads generally have lively offenses with Watson and Cousins in charge but are plagued by continual offensive line-related shortcomings.
Watson has been sacked 174 times during his first four seasons in the NFL. That is the fourth-most for any quarterback in NFL history through four seasons. Only David Carr, Randall Cunningham, and Ryan Tannehill were sacked more in their first four seasons. Watson may not veto a hypothetical trade to the Vikings, yet his arrival in Minnesota could be “more of the same” for his career outlook. Ideally (for his sake), he will want to jaunt onto a ready-made roster known for offensive line prosperity as to avoid a Texans-like redux. Do the Vikings really feel like that team? No. The true draw to get him to the NFC North would be the offensive weaponry in Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith Jr. – not the offensive line.
As for management, a higher priority must be emphasized on the trenches, particularly the offensive ones. Truth be told, any quarterback under siege as much as Watson or Cousins is going to encounter an upside-down win-loss record at the end of a season. Go talk to Carson Wentz about it.
2021 Will Be Offseason of Defense for MIN
The Vikings finished 2020 with the fourth-best offensive via yards gained and the 27th-best defense via yards allowed. Subtract momentarily what you know about the Vikings coaching and player personnel. Do those two statistical metrics sound like a team that needs an offensive revamping? Probably not.
This offseason will be spent ensuring defensive players like Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Mike Hughes are in pristine condition for Week 1 of 2021. Those are arguably the missing pieces needed to return Mike Zimmer’s defense – to a Mike Zimmer defense.
Then, the team will invest draft capital on the defensive side of things. A defense-first coach in Zimmer has every excuse necessary to preach defense-defense-defense in the coming months. Bargain-bin free agents will be explored. Scouting reports from the upcoming draft class will have the acronyms “DT,” DE,” and “FS” written all over them.
Indeed, the Vikings must bolster talent at the guard position on the offensive line, preferably via free agency. But then it will be a defensive marathon of emphasis.
None of that screams a Deshaun Watson trade.