Cousins’ pricey contract has potentially made him untouchable in a trade scenario, leaving the Vikings to exercise other options to get under the salary cap by March 16.
CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora reported that several of the team’s other star players have made rounds in trade talks and said he’d be surprised if a few were not moved.
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Vikings Open to ‘Dump’ Several High-Priced Veterans
La Canfora wrote on March 9 that while the focus has centered around Cousins, “Minnesota is open to dealing several of their more high-priced veterans to try to reset the cap situation, add more draft picks and prepare for the future.”
However, the Vikings are unlikely to garner any significant draft capital from veteran talents whose careers are reaching their twilight. And the names “making rounds” are sure to be disappointing if La Canfora’s report proves true.
“The sense among some of the execs I spoke to is that the Vikings seem to understand that they aren’t in position by and large to hit home runs with these trades (which are more like salary cap dumps). Receiver Adam Thielen, linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive tackle Michael Pierce, even running back Dalvin Cook are names making the rounds. I’d be surprised if a few were not moved,” La Canfora wrote.
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What to Make of 2022
The Vikings are currently $15.0 million over the 2022 salary cap, and while they can get under with a few restructuring maneuvers, the new regime must account for what to make of the upcoming season.
Cousins has played some of his best football over the past two seasons to no avail, amounting to a 15-18 record with a depleted defense behind him.
If Minnesota believes it can win it all with its current roster, by all means, keep the team together. But realistically, the Vikings need two to three new cornerbacks, an interior offensive lineman and an edge rusher to make immediate impacts to transform some of the team’s soft spots in 2021.
Minnesota banked on rookies playing a significant role after a mass exodus of veteran talent in 2020 — the first year the defense took a step back from its former glory. The Vikings will need to supplement the defense with a few proven veterans.
That won’t come cheap, but there is hope.
OverTheCap mapped potential restructures for every team in the league and Minnesota can manufacture over $48 million in savings on the 2022 books with simple restructures that require no negotiations. But that money saved in 2022 will be owed further down the road in the form of prorated bonuses that could hamper the Vikings’ future — a situation Minnesota, which has toed the line of a rebuild the past two seasons — will want to avoid.
Newly hired general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and his staff will have to balance how much they’re willing to push in for the 2022 season, especially if Cousins stays and plays out the final year of his contract.
If Cousins stays in Minnesota for the final year of his contract, the Vikings may step back from a potential rebuild this offseason and make it work with many of the team’s proven veterans.
However, if Cousins is traded, Minnesota could be in for a full rebuild and cut ties with the players who helped the Vikings rise to notoriety over the last five years and earned hefty contracts for their loyalty.