As has been the case every time the Minnesota Vikings have had a chance to rework the hellacious salary cap situation, Kirk Cousins finds his name in the news. He had another solid season this year for Kevin O’Connell, but the reality has always been that he makes a limiting amount of money. Would moving him actually lead to a better roster, though?
The question regarding Kirk Cousins has never been about whether he is a good quarterback. There is no denying he is a very solid starting caliber talent in the NFL. The problem is that Minnesota found him on the open market when he was the premier option and needed to pay for it. As he progresses in his career, there isn’t a path in which Cousins gets cheaper, and Minnesota must continue to decide whether they’ll kick the proverbial can down the road.
Would the Vikings without Kirk Cousins Be Enough to Work?
Similar to a scenario that will face whatever team pays Lamar Jackson, having significant salary cap space tied up in one player is difficult for a sport needing a team to compete. The difference for the Ravens signal-caller is that he’s better than Cousins is, so the pill is easier to swallow, but the reality of cap construction remains a process.
Should the Vikings find a taker for Cousins because there is no way he will be cut, they would need to have a plan forward. The San Francisco 49ers may have made a good deal of sense before Brock Purdy tore his UCL, but that now would make Trey Lance less likely to be moved. Kyle Shanahan has proven his team can win no matter who is under center, but that team doesn’t seem likely to roster three starting-caliber talents in 2023. Even still, needing to take a wait-and-see approach with Purdy could be the best course of action.
Whether it’s the 49ers or someone else, dreaming of a trade partner for Cousins is the scenario we’re trying to play out here. If that were to happen, Minnesota could free up more than $36 million in cap space. That money would then need to be spread out on defense and other roster holes to raise the overall water level of the team.
It is conceivable that a substantial windfall of cash flow may help fix many of the Vikings defensive problems. They are very green at the cornerback position, but their low salaries work in their favor if development occurs. Addressing the linebacker and safety position could help, and another big man up front may help take pressure off the secondary. What amount of dollars all of those take up can certainly fluctuate, but at least one position on offense would need addressing.
Moving on from Cousins would require another quarterback to step up. I’m not sure Nick Mullens is enough to lead an offense needing to carry the load. Minnesota will again be looking for a skill position player or two, and Cousins’ level of mediocrity doesn’t make it necessary that the quarterback be all world. Where they turn to find the next man under center would be difficult. The draft capital isn’t there to make it happen, and plenty is desired on the open market.
At the end of the day, finding a way to shed Cousins’ cap hit would be a substantial boost for Minnesota. His level of ability doesn’t make it unfathomable to think someone else could come in and do a similar job. The problem is that the Vikings also are in a place where they can’t afford to be wrong and go backward post-Cousins, so they would need to hit on virtually every move in the wake of his departure.
Continuing to extend Cousins seems like a band-aid on a bullet wound, but ripping open the scar and moving on isn’t an enviable decision either.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.