Is it time to move on from Kirk Cousins?
By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)
If Kirk Cousins isn’t traded, Cousins will presumably enter his fourth season with the Vikings, playing on year one of a two-year, $66 million dollar extension he signed this offseason. Cousins has been solid for Minnesota, but despite the talent around him, the Vikings have only made the playoffs once in those three seasons.
Given the importance of quarterback stability in the NFL, there’s a good chance that the Vikings are content right where they are with Cousins, and they could opt to build around him with more pieces to make a Super Bowl run. However, there have been rumblings of a potential trade, and if a trade happens, the Vikings would be a candidate to either trade up for a QB or hope one falls to them at 14.
If Minnesota wants to move on from Cousins and draft a QB, there are ways to do it. However, there are also potential factors that could weigh against that decision. Here are three pros and cons to the Vikings drafting a QB.
Pro #1: Potential for a generational talent
This pro is probably conditional with the Vikings trading up from 14, as the four QBs who could hold that label will probably be gone by their selection. The price to trade up to 4 (the spot where they’d get at least one of those guys) would be steep, however, it could be potentially worth it.
If they got Trey Lance, for example, the Vikings wouldn’t necessarily have to trade Cousins yet. Instead, they could sit Lance for a year behind Cousins, then trade Cousins with a year left on his deal in order to absorb less dead money. Then Lance could step in as the starter, and he’d hopefully be more polished after a year of learning behind an experienced QB.
Con #1: Potential for a big bust
Evaluating QBs is hard, and it’s possible that three of the four guys I just mentioned become huge busts (I highly doubt that will happen with Lawrence). If Trey Lance (or whoever the Vikings could get) didn’t work out for them, the draft trade could go down as one of the worst in franchise history.
Passing on Cousins could be viewed extremely negatively in hindsight as well, as Cousins has been a very modest QB for most of his career. The Vikings would also have had to spend lots of draft capital to move up in the first place, so whiffing on a prospect could severely damage their team for years to come. Despite the urgings of the Minnesota fanbase, it might be smart not to tear down what the Vikings have built, even though they currently aren’t quite where they want to be.
Pro #2: Getting a Cousins-like guy on a cheap contract
This description probably fits Mac Jones best, and Jones is also a guy who could be around at 14. Jones is possibly the most pro-ready out of any of the rookie QBs, and while he does have physical limitations, he could fill the Cousins role of game manager at a much cheaper price.
Even if the Vikings still like Cousins, they could opt to go get Jones instead for the contract alone. The cap hit from Cousins would sting for a year or two (depending on when/if he gets traded), but afterwards, they’d have a solid player in Jones who could lead the team on a good contract for 2-3 years. The plan does have its flaws, but it could end up working out in the long run, as the Vikings would eventually be able to get more pieces to greatly improve their squad overall.
Con #2: Cousins’ contract
As mentioned earlier, the Vikings are on the hook for Cousins’ two-year, $66 million deal, and that could be a problem in terms of team-building. They would still take a big cap hit regardless of whether Cousins is traded now or in a year, which would make it difficult to support an incoming rookie QB.
If Minnesota decides that the cap hit is worth it, they could send Cousins off and replace him with a rookie. However, as mentioned, it’d be very difficult for them to get a generational rookie at their draft spot, and it’d also be difficult to trade up a ton of spots. These problems would make it easier for the Vikings to stick with Cousins, but Minnesota fans are quickly getting tired of mediocrity, and the front office could eventually succumb to the fan base, whether it’d be the right decision or not.
Pro #3: A new energy in the locker room
The locker room might not seem like a huge problem, but it is true that the Vikings haven’t yet played up to their full potential, and the locker room could be partly why. While Cousins is a very good QB, he isn’t great, and it could be that all the players need is a new and exciting QB to rally behind.
NFL locker rooms are a complicated place, and just because we haven’t heard about any problems doesn’t mean that things couldn’t be improved. This isn’t supposed to be a knock on Cousins as a person, as he is a fantastic guy by all accounts. However, Vikings players are certainly tired of mediocrity, and the blame for some of it could fall on the QB, whether it’s deserved or not.
Con #3: An inexperienced face of the locker room
As mentioned above, there’s a chance that all the locker room needs is a fresh, new face. However, we do know that players can have a difficult time rallying around inexperienced rookies, especially when they struggle.
NFL players get enormous comfort from having a veteran in the huddle, as veterans usually display charisma and are able to calm their teammates with their knowledge of the situation. This isn’t to say that a rookie can’t provide that, but there’s a chance they wouldn’t be able to given their newness to the NFL. If a potential rookie isn’t reliable in the huddle for Minnesota, it could create a much bigger problem in terms of locker room dynamic. This could leave teammates extremely frustrated, and it could cause them to question why the Vikings abandoned Cousins in the first place.