Head coach Kevin O’Connell followed suit with the reports leaked to the national media sirens that he is “anticipating” Cousins being the team’s quarterback for the 2022 season.
However, SKOR North’s Judd Zulgad reported that the Vikings received a call from the Carolina Panthers inquiring about the veteran quarterback.
Zulgad couldn’t speak at liberty about the details of the conversation — whether there was an offer or simply the Panthers sending out feelers for now — but he did reveal the Vikings’ tone from the call was different from past messages espoused throughout the offseason.
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‘Let’s Put a Pin in That Conversation’
Zulgad reported on Monday that the Vikings did not entertain a trade from their call with the Panthers but continue to monitor a trade’s potential.
“They have gotten a call,” Zulgad said, per Inside the Vikings. “Now, from what I’ve heard, it went nowhere so far. But it’s interesting that the phone did ring at TCO [Performance Center] in Eagan and on the other end of the line…the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback-desperate. Panicked, I’m sure. I think if Matt Rhule and the Panthers don’t have a successful 2022, he’s probably going to be fired because that has not worked out. They cast their lot, in 2021, with Sam Darnold — didn’t work out. … Now, the Vikings supposedly said ‘Hey, let’s put a pin in that conversation. We don’t plan to move him now.’ But it makes sense that you would then try and drive things a bit.”
Minnesota has continued to back Cousins early in the offseason, which could be accurate, but also only bolster’s his trade value.
“Well, I know he’s already under contract, and I’m excited to coach him,” O’Connell said in an introductory press conference on February 17. “We’ve already started thinking about how we’re going to build those systems for him and our other quarterbacks and really the tremendous skill group that we have, our guys up front. It takes all 11 to move the football on offense, to run it, to throw it, to score points in the red zone. But I’m anticipating Kirk being a part of what we do.”
Zulgad’s report undoubtedly clashes with the Vikings’ public defense of Cousins, and more mixed reports are sure to come surrounding the veteran quarterback who’s never had a sterling reputation, even with the Vikings, who “quietly shopped” him last offseason, according to Zulgad.
“There’s this weird dynamic on Twitter where I think people get confused that a call means trade talks are ongoing. I never said that. I have no clue,” Zulgad clarified on ESPN 102.3. “All I’m saying is with the combine starting (March 1). There’s going to be a ton of discussion with guys like Cousins.”
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Panthers Are Desperate
Like the Vikings in 2018, the Panthers have a team that’s ready to make a run to the Super Bowl, boasting one of the league’s top defenses and an offensive with weapons aplenty.
Entering a vital third season in Carolina, head coach Matt Rhule is in the hot seat after producing a pair of five-win seasons due to poor quarterback play.
That could position the Vikings to leverage Cousins in a potential trade despite his hefty hit salary.
Pro Football Focus recently proposed a trade that would send Cousins to the Panthers for the No. 6 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a second-round pick in 2023. Minnesota wouldn’t be on the hook for any of Cousins’ $35 million base salary, which many experts project the Vikings would have to cover in part to make a deal happen.