Vikings Should Extend Kirk Cousins and Draft QB of Future
After a disappointing end to the 2022-23 Minnesota Vikings season, fans and media personalities are turning to what’s on the offseason agenda for GM, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach, Kevin O’Connell. Because there are a lot of questions that need answered.
Can weaknesses at WR or OL be fixed? What about the the multitude of defensive shortcomings that need stabilized? If those issues are fixable, serious cap constraints will make them more difficult to navigate. Oh, and who will be hired as the new defensive coordinator and what base scheme will they operate out of?
Kirk Cousins is QB1 in 2023-24
These are all legitimate quandaries and some may be more important, in the short term, than any questions surrounding Kirk Cousins. In all likelihood, Kirk will be the quarterback in Minnesota next season. Kwesi & Co cannot say that for other positions on the roster.
You can make an argument the Vikings have the BEST QB situation in the NFC entering 2023— Dan (@ClappedDan) January 23, 2023
Dak: Black more expensive and injury prone version
Hurts: One year with by far best supporting cast let’s see it again
Geno: One good year pic.twitter.com/2cf3oQkwjl
Why? Because Cousins is entering the final year of a fully-guaranteed extension and his no-trade clause gives him final say over where he plays it out. Trading Kirk would be the only way to move on and save money. Cutting him is not an option
That’s not the case for other aging veterans across the roster. The Vikings, for example, could cut Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Cook and Harrison Smith and clear roughly $60 million in cap space.
Kirk’s cap hit of $36 million in 2023-24 is scheduled to be one the highest in the NFL but, given the flexibility they have elsewhere, it isn’t a number that would suffocate the front office this offseason.
But what about the long-term?
But as is always the case in the NFL these days, the Minnesota Vikings’ most important long term questions do surround the quarterback position. Cousins will be 35-years-old when the 2023-24 season starts and it’s only a matter of time before KAM and KOC want to take their first shot at grooming a young quarterback of the future.
Heading into free agency and the draft, the Vikings have a ton of positional needs. But they need to address their quarterback after Kirk’s contract expires next season. Arguably, the team’s biggest draft need is finding the quarterback after Kirk.— Paul Charchian (@PaulCharchian) January 23, 2023
So that begs the question, should the Vikings look to the 2023 draft for Kirk Cousins’ replacement? Or, should Kwesi extend Kirk again and kick the “QB of the future” conversation down the road a little further?
The answer: Both.
It is time for the Vikings’ front office to start their transition out of the Kirk Cousins era. So yes, they should draft a day one or day two quarterback who they strongly believe in. But Kirk isn’t an old, grimey band-aid that needs ripped off, either.
By extending Cousins for one additional season, much like what they agreed to last year around this time, the Vikings can have the best of both worlds. It would lower his cap number by $5-10 million and give them flexibility in their QB future.
There would be no pressure for a rookie QB to play immediately, or even in the foreseeable future. Instead, a young quarterback would have ample time (at least two seasons) to develop behind one of the most ironman QBs of our lifetime, around some of the most talented offensive pieces in the league.
The Vikings are uniquely positioned to develop a young QB. Look at the offensive infrastructure you’d be plugging him into:— Phil Mackey 🎙 (@PhilMackey) January 22, 2023
Justin Jefferson, TJ Hockenson, two elite offensive tackles, and an offensive-minded head coach with a track record of elevating QBs.
If a young quarterback doesn’t show the type of development a future QB1 tends to show early on, the Vikings still have reliable 35-year-old Kirk Cousins on roster, who likely has 3-5 years of competent QB play still in his tank. If he develops faster than expected, Kirk still has plenty of return trade value, given how desperate many teams are at that position.
The ultimate insurance program
In other words, Cousins is the ultimate insurance program as Kwesi and O’Connell search for their next quarterback. Kirk isn’t going to cause problems, like Aaron Rodgers did with Jordan Love, and he’s an above average fallback option that can keep the team competitive while a search continues on. And because Kirk was never seen as elite, the cost to keep him on roster should start to decline after his 35 y/o season.
So yes, it’s time for the Minnesota Vikings to move on from Kirk Cousins. But there’s no need to do it in haste. Instead, ride #8 until he isn’t needed anymore. Whether that’s two years from now or five, let Kwesi’s eye for talent and O’Connell’s ability to develop determine when Cousins’ time has come.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan