The Minnesota Vikings have issues across the roster, but they won’t be able to address nearly any of them until they deal with the $45 million question on their hands.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report wrote Saturday, February 19 that the “ideal offseason trade scenario” for the Vikings is to ship quarterback Kirk Cousins somewhere — anywhere. Adam Rank of NFL Network got a bit more specific two days prior when he suggested a trade proposal flipping Cousins for Arizona Cardinals star quarterback Kyler Murray.
“I like [Murray] to move because the Cardinals won games without him last year. He would bring in a huge bounty of picks,” Rank wrote. “I know there are some growing rumblings between the Cardinals and Murray, and he’s still young enough to bolt to the Oakland A’s if he wants to. But imagine the Vikings making a move with veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins (and his expiring contract) for Murray.”
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Trade For Murray Would Cement Vikings’ Offensive Future For Years
Not only is the concept of a Vikings deal for Murray something worth imaging, it’s a trade proposal that should have Minnesota fans everywhere salivating.
Murray has already been named to two Pro Bowls after just three years in the NFL. The 24-year-old quarterback has never thrown for fewer than 3,700 yards in a season and boasts 70 passing TDs to just 34 INTs, per Pro Football Reference. Murray has also rushed the ball for nearly 1,800 yards and 20 TDs during his young career.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals QB remains on his rookie contract. Murray represents a salary cap hit of just a little over $11 million in 2022, per Spotrac, and is eligible for a long-term extension beginning this offseason.
Murray’s age and career trajectory line up perfectly with that of Vikings two-time Pro-Bowl wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Minnesota would be able to complement that hypothetical air attack with a ground game led by perennial Pro-Bowl running back Dalvin Cook.
Presumably, Murray would also be open to the idea of a move to Minnesota. The young quarterback scrubbed all images of the Cardinals organization from his Instagram account earlier this month, noting that he felt the team had scapegoated him for an embarrassing playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams over Wildcard Weekend.
Kirk Cousins’ Contract Untenable For Vikings Moving Forward
Trading Cousins for Murray is the dream scenario in Minnesota, but moving on from Cousins this offseason may prove necessary regardless of who the Vikings can find to replace him.
Cousins represents a $45 million salary cap hit in 2022, which includes $35 million in base salary and a $10 million bonus. The size of the deal, as well as the fact that it will expire at the end of this season, limits the maneuvers the Vikings can make.
Ballentine laid out the financial realities facing the team over the coming months:
The Vikings have two realistic options: Sign [Cousins] to an extension that includes making his price more manageable this season, or find a team willing to take on some of that salary in a trade.
With the team $14 million over the cap, it isn’t feasible to just let his contract play out. Signing him to an extension might not be ideal, either, considering the Vikings have made the playoffs just once in Cousins’ four seasons in Minnesota.
Finding someone who will take on Cousins’ contract would be difficult. The Vikings are on the hook right now for $10 million even if he’s traded, leaving the team receiving him responsible for $35 million.
The Vikings would likely be able to get more out of the trade if they were willing to pay additional salary in the form of a bonus, as suggested by Chad Graff of The Athletic. Doing so would likely net the Vikings a premium draft pick while putting the Cousins contract behind them once and for all.