The Minnesota Vikings did not partake in the process, but close-to-unprecedented turnover at the quarterback position transpired last offseason (Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, etc.). Minnesota entered Year Three of the Kirk Cousins experiment, and the result was a mixed bag. Cousins posted outstanding numbers (4,265 Passing Yards, 35 TDs) while the team’s defense floundered to the fourth-worst standing in the business via points allowed. The offense inhabited a top tier whereas the defense set up shop in the bottom bracket.
Normally when that occurs, a team ends the season with a .500-at-best mark. The Vikings were not exceptional in this tradition as they achieved a 7-9 record, netting the organization the 14th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Cousins re-upped his commitment to the Vikings last spring and barring an unforeseen move by general management, he will lead the team for at least two more seasons. That does not signify wholesale endorsement from all Vikings loyalists, though. When the team creates miscues, Cousins is the forbearer of blame. It is a fascinating and kooky cycle. Minnesota was the fourth-best NFL squad for offensive yards gained in 2020 but sixth-worst in yards allowed. Yet, here the conversation stands at “what to do with Kirk.”
The 32-year-old is not immune to culpability. The major critique of Cousins’ presence on the team is visible in his ups and downs. Elite quarterbacks will have subpar games that resemble 190 passing yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions – but the team finds a pathway to victory. In the situations where Cousins pumps out such a statline, the Vikings are doomed. It feels like Cousins’ bad performances wrench the team to its knees. Again, much of that has to do with defense. But the modern NFL is constructed on offensive flair and defense seemingly is a secondary talking point.
Ergo, if the exploration of ridding Cousins was a real internal sentiment, who would be the team’s quarterback this September?
Who You Wanted Isn’t Very Good
After the Vikings bungled the 2017 NFC Championship, Rick Spielman wanted a new quarterback. The in-house options were Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, and Sam Bradford. Spielman obviously swerved and chose Cousins. The central debate, however, was between Bridgewater, Keenum, and Bradford.
Now look at them.
Bridgewater could not throw more than 15 touchdowns passes to a wide receiver corps that included D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson – three astute playmakers in Carolina. The former Viking is a lovable and inspirational dude, but he is not setting the league ablaze elsewhere. Perhaps he could produce more profitably with the Vikings weapons, but that is a humongous leap of faith.
On Case Keenum, his Vikings afterlife has been humdrum. The Denver Broncos gave him a junior-sized bag of money to emulate his 2017 stardom in Colorado. The Broncos went 6-10 in that season, 2018, and sent Keenum yonder in favor of – you guessed it – Joe Flacco. Lately, Keenum can be found in reservist roles with the mighty Washington Football Team of 2019 and behind Baker Mayfield in Cleveland for 2020. Keenum ultimately fulfilled his predestination – a damn good backup quarterback.
Sam Bradford was the most promising of the three choices when evaluated on sheer talent. But his knee bones rubbed together. He joined the Cardinals in 2018, only to be swiftly benched for Josh Rosen (who is not worthy of a QB3 spot nowadays). Bradford retired shortly thereafter.
Dare we say it – Spielman got this one right?
Free Agents? Trades? Who?
The 2021 smorgasbord of free-agent quarterbacks is puny. Dak Prescott is the main event, and he will likely return to Dallas upon healing from a gruesome injury. Then, the field shrinks to men like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, Mitchell Trubisky, and Jameis Winston. One cannot watch football on Sundays in an unbiased fashion and promote those men’s services ahead of Cousins.
2021 is not the year of the free-agent passer. That was last year. Therefore, Minnesota would require a trade if some hypothetical quarterback is waiting to be traded elsewhere. If Houston would listen, the Vikings could hand the Texans three 1st Round draft picks and Cousins (and maybe more) for Deshaun Watson. That one might be worth the return. But it remains wildly “what-if.”
Deals could be discussed with the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, or Indianapolis Colts. Minnesota would inherit via trade Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff, or some unknown package from the Colts.
Ask yourself – is Garoppolo or Goff superior to Cousins? Really think about it.
Trade Draft Capital to Move Up
Call this one the most sensible recourse if Cousins is no longer the future. Because the Vikings finished 2020 on a 6-4 win-loss spurt, draft position slid. Spielman will make his selection at the 14th pick in April. This is “reach” territory for a quarterback. Unless a hot commodity like Trey Lance or Zach Wilson falls on draft night, the 14th selection in 2021 is not theorized to be ideal for quarterback hunting.
A trade is probably a necessity to ascertain the sought-after franchise quarterback. And the price tag is unclear. The Vikings have no second-round picks as of now. The deal would hinge on the 14th pick, maybe a 3rd rounder in 2021, and likely something juicy from the 2022 draft. Draft-night hopscotch can plop the Vikings in the Top 10 of April’s draft if they so choose.
With Cousins on the roster at a hefty financial sum, rookie QB John Doe will not be QB1 out of the gate. A grooming and on-the-bench maturation process would follow. It’s not a terrible idea. Trading Cousins for a non-Watson quarterback is not advisable. And the free-agent solutions are comical.
Verdict: Stick with Cousins or plot QB1 of the future via draft-night trade.