The biggest NFL story in Minneapolis revolves around who will be the next head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. As soon as ownership decides, the focus will immediately shift to the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Minnesota’s decisions are basically two: extend Cousins or trade him. The Vikings quarterback is under contract for just one more season on a pricey deal that is likely to only get pricier when he re-ups, either this offseason or the next.
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Minnesota is on the hook for $35 million in base salary owed to Cousins in 2022, with a $10 million bonus on top of that. If that price tag proves too hefty for Vikings management and/or the team can’t stomach being tied to the QB for years to come at a similar annual cost, then it’s time to talk trade.
Cousins Has High Trade Value in QB-Crazy NFL
If Cousins hits the trade market, there are going to be several teams interested.
The Vikings signal caller has already been linked to potential deals with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will say goodbye to the retiring Ben Roethlisberger following this postseason; the Cleveland Browns, who suffered through a rocky and disappointing campaign with their young, and as of yet unextended, quarterback Baker Mayfield; and the Philadelphia Eagles, who are a less viable, but still possible, option following a playoff berth under improving second-year QB Jalen Hurts.
The Denver Broncos are also a viable trade suitor for Cousins, and the one that Alex Kay of Bleacher Report said is the most “realistic,” as the time for the Vikings to make a decision on their QB draws near.
Kay pitched the idea of Denver shipping its 2022 first-round pick, along with its 2022 seventh-round selection, to Minnesota in exchange for Cousins. He laid out his thoughts in an article published Monday, January 10.
After missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, the Broncos may finally swing for the fences this offseason.
With [QB Teddy Bridgewater’s] contract now expiring, the Broncos should be looking elsewhere to find a quarterback who can provide a real jolt to this offense. One realistic option is Kirk Cousins, who could benefit from a change of scenery after four years in the Twin Cities.
Cousins had a strong 2021 season, throwing for 4,221 yards and 33 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions. Despite this, Minnesota missed the playoffs for the second straight year and may be ready to move on, especially when considering how much Cousins will cost in 2022.
Daniel Kelly, a former NFL scout and current SI.com writer, believes the Vikings would accept a deal centering around Denver’s 2022 first-rounder and another potential selection.
The pick, in conjunction with the club’s own first-rounder, would allow Minnesota to either select a potential franchise QB or at least give the Vikings enough capital to slide up the board and get their guy.
It would also bring the Broncos their first high-end quarterback since Peyton Manning, giving the franchise real hope of contending again at a fair price.
Option to Re-Sign Cousins in Minnesota is Complicated, Expensive
As mentioned above, the other option is to re-sign Cousins. While pricey, as Kay noted, a move in that direction would allow for a potential restructuring of Cousin’s contract that could provide some financial flexibility for the Vikings. More importantly, though, it would set in stone the team’s quarterback position moving forward.
Holding onto Cousins without extending his contract would put the Vikings in a difficult spot after next season. The Washington Football team used the franchise tag on the quarterback in two consecutive years before he left the nation’s capital for the Midwest, which means that the franchise tag will not be an option for keeping Cousins on the Minnesota roster moving forward.
With deficiencies at the quarterback position across so much of the NFL, Cousins would operate with tremendous leverage as an unrestricted free agent following the 2022 campaign, especially if he has another great year. Cousins ranked as the NFL’s fifth-best QB this season, boasting an overall rating of 88.2 coupled with a passer rating of 86.8, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
The team’s results on the field have been mediocre to slightly sub-par with Cousins under center, as the Vikings have now missed the postseason two years running after beating the New Orleans Saints in Wildcard Weekend back in 2019.
If the thought is that, despite his stellar numbers, Cousins is simply missing something the Vikings need to take advantage of their Pro-Bowl running back Dalvin Cook and dynamic wide receiver duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, then trading the QB is the only option. Unless, of course, the Vikings would prefer to play out the string on his current contract and either pay above market value to retain Cousins following the 2022 campaign, or simply let him exit out the side door for nothing in return.