Zimmer addressed the tempest of trade rumors Cousins has been pulled into on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, striking down the possibility of a trade.
“Kirk’s our guy. He had a terrific year this year. We have to get better on defense and that’s my job to get it fixed,” Zimmer said, per NFL Network’s Will Selva.
Zimmer’s stance harkens back to the Stefon Diggs trade or even Percy Harvin’s departure for the Seattle Seahawks — where both players seemed secure but were later traded.
However, Zimmer’s “he’s our guy” cliché may hold more ground this time.
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Zimmer Warming up to Cousins
Cousins’ walk-off touchdown throw in the 2020 NFC Wild Card round against the New Orleans Saints helped Zimmer receive a three-year contract extension, however, the financial drain Cousins’ contract has brought to the team — specifically the defense — has left Zimmer little means to rebuild.
Coming off a 2017 NFC Championship appearance, Zimmer detailed how he’d like the quarterback position to be addressed — an ask that went the opposite direction for the defensive-minded coach.
“The thing that I told Rick (Spielman) was when we sat down in meetings, I said, ‘look, we’ve won this many games in these many years because of this football team.’ Because we’ve played really good on defense for the most part,” Zimmer said. “What I don’t want to do is say, ‘okay, (here) is this one thing – we’re going to do this and we’re going to take away from the rest of the things that have gotten us to this point.’ So that’s the other thing… It’s important that we continue to put the pieces in place on defense.”
Cousins was the valuable quarterback in free agency that year and, after signing the veteran quarterback, Zimmer’s desire to keep the defense intact went backward.
Three seasons since coming a game away from the Super Bowl, Zimmer and Spielman are now reliant on keeping quality quarterback play to improve the chances of making the playoffs and preserving their jobs.
Trading Away Cousins Would Commit to the Rebuild
There are few possibilities where trading Cousins would improve the Vikings as a team in the short term, meanwhile, the franchise has continued to tout the team is entering a soft rebuild and has every expectation to be a perennial playoff contender.
That has never happened in Zimmer’s tenure as Minnesota has made the playoffs every other year since 2014. Trading away Cousins would leave the Vikings with slim pickings at quarterback, whether it be addressed in free agency or in the draft.
Options like Mitchell Trubisky, Gardner Minshew or Ryan Fitzpatrick seem like the most realistic free-agent replacements to Cousins and would likely lead to regression offensively. It would offer the Vikings the opportunity to get under the salary cap, reassess several positions and bring in talented free agents on the offensive line and defense and, most importantly, find and develop a future franchise quarterback.
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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.