Vikings Projected to Replace Kirk Cousins With Talented Pocket Passer

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

Getty Quarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass against the New York Giants during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings have another vexing quarterback decision on their hands with Kirk Cousins again at its center.

Cousins, who will play next season at the age of 35, is under contract through 2023 on a one-year deal for $35 million. The team must decide whether to extend the QB, trade him or keep him on the roster for a lame duck year.

All three options have their advantages and disadvantages, though trading Cousins without a surefire upgrade will almost certainly cause a regression in win/loss record, while playing out the string without decisive action could mean he walks next offseason and Minnesota gets nothing in return for a player who will still be a valuable asset. That leaves, then, the decision to extend Cousins once more and attempt to acquire his replacement in the interim. The best opportunity to do that will be in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Jordan Reid of ESPN on February 4 listed the Vikings as the best potential fit for his seventh-rated quarterback in the 2023 class — Tanner McKee of Stanford University.

“I’m looking at McKee’s ability off play-action and comfort from multiple pre-snap platforms here. He’d be a great fit for Kevin O’Connell’s offense in Minnesota,” Reid explained. “He is a quick decision-maker who operates well from a clean pocket, and while Kirk Cousins is the team’s locked-in starter moving forward, McKee would be a developmental prospect who could become a solid backup option in a scheme that suits his strengths.”

Tanner McKee Fits Mold of Prototypical NFL Quarterback

Tanner McKee, Stanford

GettyQuarterback Tanner McKee of the Stanford Cardinal drops back to pass during a game against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2022 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Reid noted McKee’s decision making ability and pre-snap versatility as among his top qualities. But McKee also stands at 6-feet, 6-inches tall and weighs 230 pounds. He cuts a spitting image of the successful quarterbacks of old, as he towers above the pocket and calmly surveys his options downfield.

The contemporary NFL signal caller is now often a dual-threat player. While not all are Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens or Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears, many are nimble and can make plays with their legs outside of the pocket. However, there remains room in 2023 for the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning style of quarterback.

“A polished passer who has experience from a multitude of pre-snap platforms, McKee displays great patience in the pocket. He is efficient and exhausts his progressions,” Reid wrote. “In an offense that’s a bit of a mixed bag with its scheme, he has been exposed to a lot of different concepts, and he appears very comfortable in all of them. McKee’s greatest asset, though, is his touch. He is great with how he takes pace off of the ball and lofts it within the strike zone of his targets — but he can also put zip on it and fit his throws into tight windows.”

McKee, who will turn 23 years old in April, played three seasons at Stanford and started the previous two. Last year, he completed 62% of his passes for a total of 2,947 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He earned a passing efficiency rating of 126.4.

Vikings May Keep Cousins Through 2024, Opening Way For McKee

Kirk Cousins

GettyQuarterback Kirk Cousins (left) of the Minnesota Vikings talks with head coach Kevin O’Connell (right) during a game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

As noted above, the Vikings find themselves between a rock and a hard place with Cousins again this offseason. A choice to go with Cousins in 2023 probably means an extension and a starting window that extends through the following year, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.

“Doing another extension could lower his $36.6 million cap hit for 2023. If it followed previous form, however, it would give Cousins fully guaranteed money in 2024 and all but lock him into the starting job for the next two seasons,” Seifert wrote on February 9.

That may not be the ideal situation for all Vikings fans, but it appears also to be the best of a handful of difficult options, none of which offer perfect solutions. A decision to extend Cousins also buys O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah the time they need to find their quarterback of the future while keeping the Vikings competitive, which may prove the name of the game in Minnesota for the next couple of seasons.

Read More
Comment Here
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments