With the likes of several contending teams in need of a new quarterback, it may be the opportune time for the Minnesota Vikings to make a move for the future at the position in Watson.
ESPN’ Bill Barnwell detailed and ranked 17 trade proposals from least to most likely to happen this offseason. Cousins’ contract is seemingly the elephant in the room and could be a tough sell in a trade, however, Barnwell disclosed a proposal that was ranked surprisingly well at No. 10 on the list, sending Cousins to the New England Patriots and four picks overall to the Texans — three of which are first-rounders.
In return, the Vikings would receive a tried and true franchise quarterback who has shown the potential to be a top-five QB in the league.
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Vikings Save on Picks by Pushing Cousins to Patriots
The Patriots boast a top-10 defense in points and the brilliance of Bill Belichek to make a playoff push next season. Cam Newton becomes a free agent this offseason and led New England to an underwhelming season offensively, ranking 27th in the league in both points. The Newton experiment may come to a close if the Patriots can secure a veteran quarterback who can adopt the team’s run-heavy system quickly — similar to what Cousins ran in Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the Patriots would provide a pair of later-round picks to Houston, which will send Watson and a 2023 fourth-rounder to the Vikings.
Here’s Barnwell’s proposed trade:
Vikings send: 14th and 90th overall picks in 2021, 2022 first-round pick, 2023 first-round pick (to Texans), QB Kirk Cousins (to Patriots)
Texans send: 2023 fourth-round pick, QB Deshaun Watson (to Vikings)
Patriots send: 2022 fifth-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick, QB Jarrett Stidham (to Texans)
If the Vikings want to get out of Cousins’ two-year, $68 million extension and make a massive upgrade at quarterback with Watson, it’s going to cost them the full freight price of three first-round picks. They’ll also have to swap a third-rounder in 2021 for a fourth-rounder two years from now. The Texans would come away with three first-rounders, although none of them would be higher than the 14th overall selection. New Houston general manager Nick Caserio also would take a flier on Stidham, who got a handful of snaps in garbage time for the Patriots this season.
Minnesota would free up $11 million in cap space by trading Cousins and get away from his 2022 salary, which would guarantee on the third day of the league year, and pencil in Cousins for a $45 million cap hit in 2022. The Vikings would likely need to give Cousins another extension or add voidable years to mitigate that cap number. Trading him would mean that the Patriots would have Cousins on their books for $21 million in 2021 and $35 million in 2022; that’s maybe a tad more than what he would get as a free agent, although New England is in a position where it probably would prefer to lock in a high floor at quarterback.
Watson Unlikely to Land With Vikings, Less Likely in NFC North
With Matthew Stafford expected to move on from the Detroit Lions, the Chicago Bears seeking an answer at quarterback outside of Mitch Trubisky, it may seem both NFC North competitors have a better chance at landing Watson than Minnesota.
But Barnwell debunked both teams’ odds at landing the three-time Pro Bowler. The Lions are not a desirable destination for Watson, who is not looking to help rebuild a franchise. He also counted the Bears out after they passed on Watson in the 2017 draft and have “the league’s worst depth chart at receiver.”
He even entertained the improbability that the Green Bay Packers would want to move on from Aaron Rodgers, which if it happened, the Vikings should pivot to getting Rodgers stat.
After assessing Watson’s prospects across the league, it’s unlikely he’ll join any team in the NFC North and, to Minnesota’s fortune, more unlikely they’ll face him in the division next season.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.