The Value of Trading Kirk Cousins

Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in action during the game between the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Until it is resolved, the future of Kirk Cousins will be a hot topic among Vikings fans and across the landscape of the NFL.

His $45 million cap hit for next season is untenable for a team that has work to do just to get even with the cap going into next season, with what looks to be a threadbare roster. A new general manager and head coach will arrive in Minnesota shortly, and their first big decision will be the future of Kirk Cousins.

There are two options for the Vikings — they can either extend Cousins’ contract or trade him.

Let’s look at the value of trading Kirk cousins this offseason and the advantages that it has. This is not a “we must trade Kirk Cousins” article. I will examine both scenarios objectively and separately. The value of extending Kirk Cousins article will follow this one. 

Since he first arrived in Minnesota, Kirk Cousins has been a divisive figure. The schism has only grown wider over the years — to the point where Vikings social media is plagued by constant squabbling between those who support Cousins and those who can’t wait to see him replaced. For the record, I believe Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback capable of winning a Super Bowl.

I also believe there are valid reasons to consider trading the quarterback if the right deal comes along.

Kirk Cousins has given the Minnesota Vikings their most consistent quarterback play in some time. However, that hasn’t manifested into team success. In his four seasons in Minnesota, the team has managed just one playoff appearance and one playoff win, signed on the back of the Vikings making the NFC championship game with a career backup under center. Unsurprisingly, it has led to people being disappointed. 

Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer

To pin all the blame on Cousins is nonsense, but the fact is it just hasn’t worked. Could it work with a new head coach? Maybe. I will look at that in the follow-up piece I’ve already mentioned. Right now, let’s say whoever is in charge has decided to trade Cousins. What’s the potential market for a trade?

There could be several suitors, with several teams searching for a new quarterback and others that could be. Kirk Cousins would, in my opinion, be an improvement at quarterback for the following teams who may be in the market for a new quarterback: Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Washington Football Team, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints. Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.

That’s a lot of teams.

Will all those teams see Kirk Cousins as the answer? No. Some might want to look to the draft or trade for someone like Russell Wilson – which would add the Seattle Seahawks into the mix for Cousins. The point is, with a so-called “weak quarterback class” in this year’s draft and no one significantly better than Cousins hitting free agency, there would be a market for the Vikings to trade Kirk Cousins. I would hope for a 1st round pick in return to give the new regime plenty of ammunition to start compiling a roster.

The only obstacle to the trade is the Cousins salary. Are teams going to be willing to take on that $35 million? Only having one year left on that contract helps, but it might be a case of the Vikings having to eat more of that money than the $10 million they already will in dead cap space. Once decided, make the trade, I believe the team should work that stuff out and get a deal done. This leads us to who would be quarterbacking the Minnesota Vikings in 2022

I’m not out on Kellen Mond, and I’d like to see a new regime take a look at him — one that might want him around, as Mike Zimmer certainly didn’t. However, I wouldn’t be against us taking a shot at someone like Kenny Pickett, Carson Strong, or Malik Willis in the draft if the chance arises. Whether it is Kellen Mond or a rookie, there will be a need for a bridge quarterback, who might be the guy to start the season. Someone like an Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, or Gardner Minshew. That won’t be exciting, but if the Vikings go the young guy route, there will need to be some patience.

That is an immediate downgrade from Kirk Cousins. So why do you do it?

To rebuild that defense that has been so bad for two seasons, with the money saved and the extra draft capital. Maybe the franchise gets lucky and drafts a quarterback that surprises people as Justin Herbert did. Realistically, that is unlikely, so you have to weigh if the probable downgrade at quarterback is worth strengthening the rest of the team. Then, the team should draft a guy solid enough to get a good team to the playoffs like Mac Jones or find a veteran to step in and catch lightning in a bottle as Case Keenum did back in 2017.

New people making these decisions certainly makes the trade option feel more likely. The same goes for all big contracts on the roster. There will not be a complete clearing of the decks. Mark Wilf dismissed that idea and said he expects the team to be competitive next year. That would favor keeping the veteran quarterback, but the new regime could just want a different type of quarterback. A new coach wanting their “own guy” would not come as a surprise. We will find out in the coming weeks. 

The value in trading Kirk Cousins comes from freeing up cap space and giving the new decision-makers the most room to start their vision and build the team at all levels. It is an option with plenty of risks, but with the dice already rolled on Monday, there is sense in going all-in on the clean slate by including the quarterback position.