Before the Minnesota Vikings whirlwind of releasing Kyle Rudolph, Dan Bailey, and Riley Reiff during the last week, the primary offseason narrative centered on Kirk Cousins. This involved a phantom trade that has yet to materialize. Cousins was “supposed” to be shipped southward to Houston for Deshaun Watson, westward to San Francisco for Jimmy Garoppolo, and into the mountains for Drew Lock.
None of that happened.
There is a flicker of possibility this could still transpire, but it teeters on lottery-odds sort of stuff. Cousins’ performance is directly tied to head coach Mike Zimmer’s employment in 2021 and vice versa to an extent. Most theorize that the two men, Cousins and Zimmer, are a package deal in terms of long-term Vikings prognosis. Should Cousins struggle in 2021 [unlikely], then Zimmer’s tenure with the team is likely kaput.
These trade rumors have never had any boundaries. They are whimsical and without merit at surface value and hence have no tangible end date. Yes, general manager Rick Spielman could receive a Godfather deal for Cousins akin to that conducted between the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams for Matthew Stafford. But that remains to be seen.
However, this Cousins-to-everywhere hubbub is nearing a plausible end date. Here’s why.
March 20, 2021 – Write It Down
In a week and a half, the remainder of Cousins’ $76 million guaranteed dollars begins to calcify to the Vikings salary cap. If he was a legitimate trade piece to wherever, a deal would likely be in the works by now. The hypothetical trade partner would inherit Cousins’ pre-3/20 deal and probably approach him with something longer term for contract length [and wiggle the money around, too.]
If Cousins is on the roster on March 20th – newsflash: he probably will be – then the likelihood that he actionizes the duration of his contract on the field for the Vikings skyrockets. To the folks that view Cousins as a true-blue franchise quarterback, this is a “we get it” proclamation. There are naysayers, though. Some Vikings loyalists deny Cousins is worth his current contract, and immerse themselves in visions of a Cousins trade.
March 20th nears. If Cousins is listed as QB1 on the team’s depth chart, his career with the Vikings is almost assuredly barreling toward 2021 and probably 2022. Although, his cap hit spikes to an unsightly $45 million in 2022. Ergo, some sort of finagling is foreseeable. Cousins won’t earn $45 million in 2022 because the team is notoriously strapped for cash to sign free agents.
Look for a restructure – just like last year – in the near future. Or a revisitation to the topic at this time next year. It all depends on when Spielman needs the cap relief to push Cousins’ money down the road.
2022 Dead Cap ($45M) Hardens on June 1
June 1st is the formal guarantee of all $45 million to Cousins’ bank account for 2022. The Vikings front office cannot backtrack in any way, shape, or form from this reality after June 1. Any movement from the $45 million cap hit in 2022 would be derived from Cousins’ willingness to re-do the deal for more years beyond 2022. Regardless, Cousins will get that money – at some point.
Consider this date — the formality. It is when the money irrefutably glues to the Vikings salary cap. The only ways to circumvent the situation are a) Cousins’ cooperation to commit for more years with the Vikings or b) a trade to another team (probably in the 2022 offseason).
March 20 is the symbolic, in-all-likelihood Cousins is the Vikings guy date. June 1st is when the rubber hits the road.
Cousins Trade Was a Longshot and Remains One
Of course, this is merely informative and intended to squash the probability of witnessing a Cousins trade in 2021. If that theory was true, it conceivably would have occurred by now as Minnesota searches for cap space at the opening of free agency.
Additionally, both Spielman and Zimmer have vocally endorsed Cousins as the quarterback. While Spielman has a reputation for listening to trade offers notwithstanding his previous public statements, this matter pertains to the most important position on the football field.
During Spielman’s recent press conference, his words on Cousins’ future would have been more federated with “I expect him to play quarterback for the team in 2021” rather than the emphatic “Cousins is our guy” [paraphrase] he offered.
But follow the calendar if you are still convinced Cousins is on the trade block. March 20th and June 1st offer itemized, timely deadlines.