Kirk Cousins opening the season with a league-high 10 interceptions in six games entering the bye week was the last straw. Vikings fans have called for a new quarterback to lead the franchise in the future.
But at what cost?
Pioneer Press columnist Charley Waters claims that the Vikings will likely have to trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft to grab a quarterback of the future as many teams will be eyeing this year’s class.
If the season ended today, the Vikings would land the No. 14 overall pick of the draft. The Vikings have 11 total picks — largely in the later rounds of the draft in true Rick Spielman-fashion.
How could the Vikings move up?
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Waters: Trading Hunter is the ‘Only Way’ to Move Up
Waters suggested the “only way” the Vikings can move up in the first round to have their pick of this elite quarterback class would be to trade Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter.
Here’s what Waters wrote on the matter:
The way it looks now, the only way the Vikings will be able to move up in the first round of April’s NFL draft to pick an elite quarterback is to trade Danielle Hunter.
There’s been whispering that Hunter, 26, out this season after neck surgery, isn’t thrilled about being the 15th-highest paid pass rusher in the league. Without a renegotiated contract, it wouldn’t be surprising if he holds out of next year’s training camp.
That could force the Vikings to trade Hunter. The return? Perhaps two first-round draft picks… A top-seven or so pick acquired in a trade for Hunter, plus the Vikings pick, might be enough to get Ohio State QB Justin Fields.
There’s no way the Vikings can get Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence — he’s probably going No. 1 to the hapless Jets. The No. 3 projected QB, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance from Marshall, Minn., played in just one game this season and his inexperience would mandate his rookie season learning from the sideline.
Several mock drafts have the top three quarterbacks (Lawrence, Fields, Lance/Zach Wilson) gone by the seventh overall pick, meaning if the Vikings are set on drafting a quarterback in the first round, they’ll have to settle outside with the fourth to sixth best QB of the class if they do not make a move.
Coach Mike Zimmer would likely be furious if Hunter were traded after the Vikings had already compromised the defense by signing Cousins to a lucrative, fully guaranteed deal back in 2018.
Trading Cousins Will Not Field a 1st-Round Pick
The prevailing logic is simply trading Cousins and drafting a quarterback of the future, but it’s not that simple with a team that is still competing 11 weeks into a season that was looking like a rebuild.
Whether the Vikings trade or release Cousins with a year left on his contract, he is still due at least $20 million from the team next season as new teams will be willing to take on the remainder of his contract — let alone offer a first-round pick in return.
Finding a veteran replacement will be difficult for the Vikings who are already cap-strapped and will need to re-sign several players ahead of the 2021 season that will likely see a hit to the salary cap limit due to the pandemic.
The options are not pretty if Cousins leaves this offseason. Start Sean Mannion? Baptize the 2021 rookie by fire? Give practice squad quarterbacks Nate Stanley or Jake Browning a shot?
It’s too much of a gamble with a developing team that just found its confidence in the midst of a three-game winning streak — all against divisional opponents.
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