Vikings Trade Proposal Flips Cousins For $34 Million QB, 1st-Round Pick

The relationship between the Minnesota Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins appears destined to continue unless the front office is willing to make a drastic move.

Andrew Perloff of CBS Sports Radio and SiriusXM pitched such a proposal on Thursday, March 2, when he suggested that the Vikings trade Cousins to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for Trey Lance and a couple other significant pieces.

“How about 49ers trade Minnesota native Trey Lance, a good defensive player and a future first to Vikings for Kirk Cousins?” Perloff tweeted.

Kirk Cousins at Quarterback Caps Vikings’ Potential as Contenders

GettyMinnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell (left) talks with quarterback Kirk Cousins (right) during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

While drastic and most definitely a risk, Perloff’s proposal has significant merit.

First of all, it would free the Vikings from the purgatory of Cousins’ tenure. The team has been mired in the experiment for five years due to a handful of factors — namely that Cousins is an above-average performer difficult to replace on the open market, and the franchise has never solidified an acceptable succession plan for the QB who will turn 35 years old ahead of next season.

Cousins is good, that’s not in question. Unfortunately, whether he is good enough to lead Minnesota to a title may no longer be in question either — especially after a disappointing end to the Vikings’ playoff run over Wild Card Weekend. He is currently playing on the final year of his contract and will cost the team $36.25 million against its salary cap in 2023.

The Vikings don’t want another one-year deal with Cousins, but don’t want to extend him unless they have contract “flexibility,” according to GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The two sides currently appear locked in contract dispute, with the four-time Pro Bowler pushing for long-term security as he nears the end of his NFL career.

It is difficult to begrudge Cousins that desire, or to argue that he hasn’t earned it, considering he has made three of his four Pro Bowl appearances during his five-year stint in Minnesota and has led the team to the postseason twice, including winning the NFC North Division title in 2022.

If the Vikings extend Cousins, they can shave up to $10 million off the cap this season. However, the deal would also likely lock him in as the starter for at least the next two seasons. That isn’t the worst outcome in the world, but does it maximize the early prime of All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson and create a true Super Bowl window in Minneapolis? The answer is probably not, and five years of data exists to back up that conclusion.

Lance Fits With Vikings’ Offensive Scheme, Roster Retooling Timeline

Kyle Shanahan

Getty Head coach Kyle Shanahan (right) of the San Francisco 49ers stands next to quarterback Trey Lance (left) during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

One of the only other options is to try and find an upgrade over Cousins on the free agent market, which doesn’t appear to currently exist with Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo topping the list of available names. The Vikings could also draft a replacement and school that player up over the next couple of years.

The latter option is probably the better of the two when considering age and financial concerns, but it puts massive pressure on Adofo-Mensah to hit on a quarterback in the middle rounds of this year’s NFL Draft, where few certainties ever exist.

The third option is to execute a trade for a player like Lance, who looks as though he has lost his position as Garoppolo’s heir apparent to plucky seventh-round signal caller Brock Purdy. But Lance was regarded highly enough by Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan in 2021 to merit the No. 3 overall pick in that draft, which San Francisco procured by dealing away multiple future first-rounders and other considerations just for the right to move up nine spots and select him.

The 49ers dubbed Lance their starter to begin the 2022 campaign, but he suffered a serious ankle injury in Week 2 that resulted in season-ending surgery. Lance is expected to be fully healthy by training camp, and will be just 23 years old and entering his third NFL season this September.

Lance is a dual-threat QB who had some bright moments during his rookie campaign. He fits the timeline of a Vikings team that is resetting this offseason in an effort to get younger and less expensive, particularly on defense. Kevin O’Connell is reputed to be something of a quarterback whisperer and has ties to the Shanahan coaching tree, which would presumably make Lance’s transition to Minnesota’s offense smoother than it would be with some other teams.

From San Francisco’s side of things, the team could move off of Lance’s relatively expensive rookie contract ($34 million in total) and replace it with a veteran in Cousins who can take the reins in 2023 if necessary. The 49ers are Super Bowl-ready and Cousins might be the man to take them where they hope to go. At the very least, he can start the season under center if Purdy hasn’t recovered fully from his elbow injury and serve as a mentor/second option depending on who proves out under center in the Bay Area.

As for the other pieces in Perloff’s trade proposal, the Vikings have needs at every level of the defense and the Niners are rife with young, quality defenders — meaning any host of personnel options would be a fit.

When it comes to the draft piece, the Niners don’t look poised to be picking anywhere but late in the first round over the next few years considering their talent level, which should make parting ways with such a selection reasonable. The Vikings, on the other hand, need as many picks as they can get and any first-rounder is of considerable value as they attempt to retool several units across the roster.