This has not been the way that the Minnesota Vikings envisioned their season starting out after going 14-3 in 2022. The writing, however, WAS on the wall that this season would be significantly worse. Before the 2023 season started, I projected that the Vikings would go 7-10 and finish third in the NFC North for multiple reasons. First was the fact that they had another poor offseason. There were zero key Free Agent additions to the team in addition to the Viking losing Dalvin Cook, Za’Darius Smith, Adam Thielen, and others. Second, is that the only good picks that Minnesota has made in the draft since 2020 is Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison. Go back and look and you’ll see terrible offensive linemen that have kept Kirk Cousins on his toes and on his back and bust Cornerbacks among others.
Unfortunately for Minnesota they’re now 1-4 and playing an equally bad division rival, Chicago Bears (who are also 1-4) at Soldier Field in Chicago this Sunday. The Vikings have lost their only threatening weapon in Justin Jefferson for at least a month, and are in jeopardy of going 1-5. The Vikes are still favored to win by 2.5, but I will give the slight favorite to the Bears just because they’re at home. So what happens if the Vikings do go 1-5 with Kirk Cousins in the last year of his contract including two more years of Dead Money that Minnesota will have to pay him, and virtually no chance to win anything?
Kirk Cousins could remain in Minnesota. To me, this sounds like an unlikely scenario due to the fact that the Vikings have already had contract talks with Kirk, and restructured his contract to push money down the road without an extension, which is just foolish. The Vikings do NOT seem interested in keeping Cousins. They’ve drafted two QBs in the last three drafts, with no success. QB Kellen Mond was eventually let go, and Jaren Hall is sitting at QB3 behind journeyman Nick Mullens. In the short term though, Cousins has ALL the say on whether he gets traded or not, because he has a “No-Trade Clause” in his contract.
So, even IF the Vikes wanted to move him to another team and gather some future draft picks, Cousins must give the thumbs up. So, where MIGHT Captain Kirk want to go?
Obviously if Cousins does give the green light to go somewhere else, he needs to give the green light, and he will only do that for a team that is QB-needy, underperforming (due to their current QB), has a chance to get to the Super Bowl (if they have a better QB), and be somewhere long-term. Wow! That seems like a hefty list but look at this way: Kirk could very well play out his current contract and become a free agent next season. IF Cousins keeps putting up stats like he is this year, he will get a MONSTER contract ON TOP of what the Vikings will have to owe him for NOT playing for them in BOTH 2024 AND 2025. The downside is that he could get injured with the Vikings and their terrible Offensive Line, and then not get much of anything next year with a new team in free agency. That’s the gamble.
Teams In The Mix
New York Jets (2-3): Let’s get the most obvious, knee-jerk reaction team out of the way first. Zach Wilson is bad. Yes, he is. Wilson is currently 29th in QBR at 37.6 and 32nd in Passer Rating at 73.4, and the Jets are dead last in passing yards per game. This is arguably the most QB-desperate team in the NFL, and it’s damn impressive that they’re 2-3 at this point. That’s the only thing that makes the Jets appealing. What makes them unappealing? A lot! The fact that Aaron Rodgers will likely be back next year, and Cousins will have to look for a new home AGAIN is not ideal. The Jets also play in the same division as the Dolphins and the Bills, who make this division TOUGH so there’s no guarantee of even making the playoffs.
Kirk Cousins reconnecting with Dalvin Cook is a cool story line, but that’s about all this is: a fairy tale.
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2): The Steelers are currently sitting on top of the AFC North, which is what would make this MOST appealing to Cousins. Pittsburgh has a solid defense, which has been winning their games, and having a credible QB might open the offense and give Najee Harris some room to run! The QB position is their weakest play, as Kenny Pickett is 31st in QBR with a 32.5, and 27th in Passer Rating with a 78.8, and the Steelers are 27th in passing yards per game. When Wide Receiver Diontae Johnson returns from IR, this offense with Kirk under center could pull off the unthinkable and beat the Ravens and Bengals for Champions of the AFC North.
However, Pittsburgh won’t pull the trigger because they’ve already committed to Pickens for the future.
Washington Commanders (2-3): Wouldn’t this be a great “Homecoming” for Cousins!? The Commanders have new ownership, a new name since Kirk left, a new Offensive Coordinator with Eric Bieniemy… Why not a “new” QB with CAPTAIN Kirk of the Commanders!? Now THAT’S a selling point that not even the NFL Script Writers could beat! Sam Howell is 18th in QBR at 48.3, and 23rd in Passer Rating at 86. The NFC East is a bit questionable at this point. Yes, the Eagles are 5-0, but they’ve looked beatable, and they haven’t played anybody good in the first five weeks. The Cowboys are 3-2 and they think that they’re good, but this could be the whole “this is our year” mantra again.
The Giants are just terrible, and at least it would give Kirk two revenge games against them for what they did to the Vikings in the playoffs last season. In this scenario, the Commander could even package Jacoby Brissett to not leave the Vikings high and dry. HOWEVER, the offensive line for Washington is even worse than the Vikings if that’s possible. So unless he’s a glutton for punishment and he would like to continue his NFL career, Kirk probably won’t trade in his purple and gold for maroon and gold.
Atlanta Falcons (3-2): Atlanta was the talk of the offseason as a landing spot for Ravens’ QB, Lamar Jackson, but obviously, that never amounted to anything. Five weeks in, the Falcons are 3-2 along with NFC South division rivals New Orleans Saints, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in first place at 3-1. Even though they have three teams with three wins, this division may be the weakest in the NFC. Atlanta QB Desmond Ridder is 24th in both QBR and Passer Rating with 42.8 and 85.8 respectively, and I said before the season started that Ridder is NOT ready.
The Falcons are also 23rd in passing yards per game so maybe a little tutelage from Cousins would benefit Ridder. Atlanta just acquired Wide Receiver Van Jefferson from the Rams, but are already underutilizing WR Drake London and Tight End Kyle Pitts, so I’m not sure why they even bothered. With Kirk Cousins as their QB, the Falcons would become an offensive juggernaut with Bijon Robinson in the backfield. THIS would be landing spot that Kirk would agree to, and the Vikings could probably get another former Washington QB, Taylor Heinicke in the trade. It makes 100% sense for both teams to make this deal happen. If Atlanta does not make this happen, they will NOT make the playoffs.
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