The Kirk Cousins Conundrum
When it comes to the Minnesota Vikings, it typically does not take long before the conversation surrounding their QB arises. On a lot of social media platforms, it’s like groundhog day when logging in to the app. Constantly seeing bickering amongst fans, who are pitted against each other and so rooted in their beliefs that they are right in their review of their franchise QB. You can usually find one set of fans determined that Cousins is not the guy for the Minnesota Vikings, and are looking for any opportunity to move on from him this offseason. On the flip side of that, you can find a subset of fans that will fight to defend the man that has put up some of the best statistics at QB for the Minnesota Vikings in recent memory, and believe that no changes need to be made. There are ‘Kirk Defenders’ and ‘Kirk Haters’. Plain and simple, Kirk Cousins is an enigma for Vikings fans. Recently signed GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah newly reported HC Kevin O’Connell will need to determine what to do this offseason, and whatever they decide it’s likely to send one side of the fanbase into turmoil and have lasting impacts on this franchise for years to come.
Option 1 Trade Kirk Cousins
This option, is probably the most likely option IF the Vikings decide that they’d like to move on from Kirk Cousins this offseason. We saw last season with Matthew Stafford, that you can obtain some assets for a team who is in the market for an upgrade at QB. The Rams traded Jared Goff, two first round picks, and a third last offseason for Stafford. This isn’t to suggest that the Vikings could recoup that much, in fact the reason the Lions received so much for Stafford was mainly due to Goff’s large contract. But it’s not outlandish to think the Vikings could receive a high second round draft pick or maybe even a first round pick depending on how much of Kirk’s contract they’d be willing to pay.
This brings me to the next point about trading Kirk. You can clear up to $35 million dollars (while incurring a $10 million dollar dead cap hit). When you zoom out and take a look at this team, there is no doubt that the Vikings have young, talented players on the roster. But clearing $35 million from the cap, could allow this team to really help shore up a defense that is bound to lose many starters from the previous season. In addition, the Vikings would also gain a draft pick, which could also help speed up the ‘reset’ that many people believe will happen in 2022.
Lastly, you have to find a trade partner and the Vikings need to be willing to move Kirk. There has been speculation that the Vikings might be willing to trade Kirk this offseason, with KSTP Sports Anchor, Darren Wolfson stating “my money is on a trade” when it comes to Kirk this offseason. As for a trade partner, we saw many teams say goodbye to their QB’s. Teams such as Tampa Bay (Tom Brady Retired), Pittsburgh (Big Ben Retired), New Orleans (no QB of the future), and Denver (win now team) could be willing to go all in and offer up draft capital, in an attempt to win right now. If they can find a taker, and deem the draft capital in return to be worth it, this could be an option the Vikings brass can’t turn down.
Option 2 Extend Kirk Cousins
This option here, does a few positive things for the Vikings. The first is, it would provide cap relief for a team in desperate need of some this offseason. Over The Cap predicts a contract extension for Cousins to provide the Vikings with about $27 million in cap relief for this season. Which is not as much as the trade option listed above, but the bonus to this would be that there is no dead cap hit. This also allows the Vikings to use that money to help fill holes elsewhere on the roster, whether that be in the form of retaining players who are likely to hit Free Agency, or just signing Free Agents in general this offseason.
The second benefit to extending Kirk Cousins is that the would Vikings have their answer at QB. Meaning they don’t need to find a bridge QB, nor do they need to search in the draft for the QB of the future, which is a difficult task by it’s own nature . This allows the Vikings to utilize draft capital to shore up other deficiencies on the roster. We know that the defense is seeing a lot of player who will likely hit Free Agency, and there is also some concern with aging veterans. Extending Kirk, and being able to utilize draft capital to surround him and the team with better players, will help the Vikings remain competitive on the both sides of the ball.
Another sign which could play a factor in this decision, is the hiring of new HC Kevin O’Connell, who has worked with Kirk Cousins in the past and has reportedly done his homework on Cousins (as did most HC candidates). Additionally, O’Connell’s offense could prove to be a friendly offense for Kirk to facilitate. If the Vikings choose to not want to completely tear it down, it could make sense for them to extend Kirk and remain competitive with a new regime.
Option 3 Let Kirk Cousins Play Out His Contract
This option will likely take a back seat to the options listed above, but it’s not that outlandish to consider. Historically when it comes to Kirk Cousins and negotiations, he and his agent typically had held all the leverage. With Kirk’s first contract, the Vikings were all in and needed a QB to get them over the ‘hump’, leverage Kirk. A few years later the Vikings needed cap relief, and needed to reach out to Cousins’ side to help out. They couldn’t move on from the QB at that time, purely due to Kirk’s ‘no trade clause’, so an extension was inevitable. The two sides eventually came to an agreement which helped out the team, but would ultimately lead to a bigger cap hit down the line, Kirk’s side though did give up some leverage, by removing the ‘no trade clause’ which allowed the Vikings to regain some leverage.
It’s very possible if the Vikings are okay swallowing a $45 million dollar cap hit on what many fans expect to be a ‘reset’ season in ’22, that they could just move on from Kirk at the end of the year. This allows the Vikings a fresh start and a huge cap boost; especially in an offseason where the cap hit is expected to jump up. For Kirk, he gets a fresh start and another opportunity to cash in one more time in Free Agency. This option is certainly not the most appealing, nor the most likely. But, it’s an option that would provide the ‘cleanest’ break between the Vikings and Kirk Cousins.
When it comes to the Vikings offseason, this will likely be one of the hottest topics among Vikings fans and people within the organization. It’s a decision that can’t be made lightly either, as whichever option is ultimately decided on, will likely change the trajectory of this Vikings franchise for the years to come. New Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah stated in his opening presser that he will consider everyone’s input while he gathers all the data to make decisions. This will likely be the biggest one he’ll have to make.