Preparation for the 2023 season is well under way and the eventual shape becomes clearer as we progress through the offseason. Today marks the first day of the NFL Combine, a time where rookie prospects are evaluated in Indianapolis on their athletic prowess and interviewed to understand their mental fortitude. It also is the time when players on the current roster enter into negotiations for contract extensions. One of the most important names in discussion for the Vikings is starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins.
Cousins is a player who typically looks for a shorter deal in extension talks, favoring two to three year contracts with plenty of money guaranteed. In the past two years, he has played on deals that extended his time in Minnesota by a year, and now Cousins is now approaching his latest lame duck season. What has changed, according to Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) of the NFL Network, is that the shorter deals are now off the negotiating table.
CONTRACT TALKS: It doesn't appear the Minnesota #Vikings are interested in another one-year extension for Kirk Cousins.
NFL insider Tom Peliserro notes the Vikings could do a long-term extension or let Cousins play out the existing deal. #SKOL pic.twitter.com/rLT3MDL9vE
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) February 27, 2023
Pelissero believes that the Cousins’ camp is instead looking for a longer commitment to the tune of three to four years. This extension would likely be the final contract of the veteran’s career as he would be age 35 at the start of the 2023 season. What he is looking for in his next and final NFL contract is a safety net. He has been playing contract year to contract year in order to make the most money possible while he still can, and hopes the level of play he had in 2022 was enough for the Vikings to make that long-term commitment to him.
The news of Cousins’ desire for a three to four year window isn’t only for the Vikings however. Pelissero’s updates land in many ears and I believe Cousins’ camp leaked the information to let the entire NFL know his intentions. If I was the Vikings, I would rather sign Cousins a final one year commitment and not attach myself to an aging quarterback for the foreseeable future. By leaking this information to Pelissero, Cousins and his camp are signaling that the Vikings aren’t interested in a long-term deal and are preparing to find a replacement quarterback that can start as early as 2024.
Now, teams that are in need of a veteran quarterback will begin approaching the Vikings and asking about the availability of Cousins and trade talks thereafter.
How Likely is a Cousins’ Trade?
When the Vikings and Cousins reached an extension on his contract last year, it was considered strange that a no-trade clause would be added into the deal. With that detail in his contract the Vikings are unable to trade the quarterback without his consent to be traded. Cousins and his agent were both operating with the understanding that Minnesota would be interested in moving off of the quarterback in the coming years. Now Cousins is able to control his own destiny and not be forced into going somewhere undesirable.
Should the Vikings elect not to give him a three to four year contract, it would be likely that Cousins ends up being traded because he wants a long-term contract whether or not it is supplied by the Minnesota Vikings. There are a few teams that are in need of a quarterback, the New York Jets are certainly in the market for a veteran to come in and make a playoff run. But how will the Vikings adjust? By getting younger.
Within the next two years, the Vikings will be on the hunt for a quarterback they want to develop into the face of the franchise.
2023 Options if Cousins is Traded
If the Vikings want to find a quarterback who can be a day one starter for the upcoming season, that narrows the draft pool down to four prospects: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, or Hendon Hooker.
The problem in targeting Young or Stroud lies with the Chicago Bears controlling the first overall pick and the quarterback needy Houston Texans at second. At the very least, C.J. Stroud is unobtainable for the Vikings. With his proto-typical quarterback size and accuracy, Stroud is the most likely quarterback to be unavailable at pick three. To get the top pick from the Bears would require the Vikings to meet a king’s ransom from their division rival; and I don’t see general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah paying.
With Stroud no longer an option, there is the potential to land Young. While he is the best in his class in terms of decision making and technique, he is undersized and lacks the arm strength of the other three. Barring another team trading with the Bears for him, Young’s draft range is between second and fifth position. According to the Jimmie Johnson draft chart, it could cost at minimum two first round picks and a third round pick just to get in that range.
Will Levis is the most assured trade up target for the Vikings, just not the most exciting. He receives comparison to Josh Allen for his size, but his presence in the pocket is what concerns me. His pressure sense is abysmal and while he has a cannon of an arm, that doesn’t alleviate my worries. As of right now, trading up to get him makes very little sense.
Hendon Hooker would be the most palatable option to the Vikings given their current lack of draft capital. Hooker’s performance in his final season at Tennessee was Heisman-like but abruptly ended after tearing his ACL. Because of his injury, his draft stock has plummeted and is project as a day two selection in either the second or third round.
"I don't feel like there has been enough talk about Hendon Hooker.. he's big, accurate and can move around" ~ @MoveTheSticks#PMSLive pic.twitter.com/IkpuzWRgzM
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) February 28, 2023
Another potential option is to bring in a veteran quarterback on a one year deal and draft a project quarterback to sit for 2023 and start in 2024. Should the Vikings like that as an option, the answer is Anthony Richardson.
Anthony Richardson is the Home Run Pick
Back in November, I wrote an article on if the Vikings should draft Richardson if he fell to them and I still believe that they would be lucky to land him. Though he went at pick 29 in the mock draft from Bleacher Report, his stock has skyrocketed since where many believe he will go in the top ten. Using Kirk Cousins as part of the trade up scenario, I looked at all the quarterback needy teams and proposed the following trade to them: Cousins and the 23rd overall pick in return for a top ten selection.
Both the Texans and Colts denied the trades as they were set on drafting a young quarterback to develop. But then I thought about how the Seahawks over-performed with a less than average Geno Smith in the best year of his career. This could be a great fit between Cousins and the Seahawks as Smith is poised to make a splash in free agency this offseason and Seattle might not be willing to pay someone with his track record top dollar. But Cousins is above an average quarterback and more worth the price Smith will ask for on the open market. After offering them the trade, they accepted and Minnesota had the fifth overall pick.
I was just testing out @PFF's mock draft to understand how much they would value Kirk Cousins' trade value. If they found a team with a top 10 pick in need of an above average QB, they could EASILY use him to move up and get one of the top 4 (and still get a good CB) #SKOL pic.twitter.com/ZojMd4LsQy
— Elliott Hicks (@TheElliottHicks) February 28, 2023
After completing the trade, the draft began and the board fell very favorably. Bryce Young was taken by the Texans at two and the Colts selected Will Levis at four. At five, both C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson were still on the board and the next most likely team to take a quarterback was the Las Vegas Raiders at seven. If the Vikings were sold on Stroud, you run to the podium and don’t look back. But I was looking for the home run swing.
The Vikings lack a second round pick in the draft this year and I wanted to make up some of the capital lost, so I hedged my bets and offered the fifth overall pick to the Raiders for the seventh overall and their second round pick. They heartily agreed and selected Stroud. After the Detroit Lions took cornerback Devon Witherspoon, Anthony Richardson became a Minnesota Viking.
If this were reality, Cousins is likely traded before the draft and Minnesota has time to game plan. They would need another quarterback since Cousins was their last one on the roster. It would be best to sign Marcus Mariota to a one year deal and let Richardson sit behind him before taking over the team in 2024.
At the beginning of the offseason, media members commented on how similar the 2022 Vikings are to the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs. Both having veteran quarterbacks who haven’t won more than one playoff game during their respective stints. Essentially condemned to football purgatory and stuck in the middle of the pack. But then the Chiefs traded up for Patrick Mahomes and altered their trajectory.
"Minnesota is in a bit of a similar situation to what Kansas City had pre-Patrick Mahomes."@MySportsUpdate on the present and future of the #Vikings' quarterback situation#Skol pic.twitter.com/TGrvJyefF0
— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) February 20, 2023
Are the Vikings preparing to do the same?
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