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Vikings Off Season Plan QB Edition

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Why the Vikings should sign Kirk Cousins and how they can afford him?

There has a lot of discussion about whether or not the Vikings should try to sign Kirk Cousins. The debates have been pretty intense but informative and passionate. That, to me, is what makes sites like this one a great avenue for fans to discuss their favorite football team. Being an old timer there were not even computers when I grew up during the 80’s. If there were I could not afford them. The internet really became popular around 1995 right? There was no outlet to talk about football as there is today.

There are a lot of youts nowadays that are learning a lot about football. Every aspect of running a team too. The youts should feel very fortunate to have this outlet.

But I digress, let me say that I think that Spielman and Brezinski do a pretty good job at managing the cap and signing free agents. I complain incessantly when they do not get the free agents I want but we really do not know the true details of any conversations they may have had with a free agent. Like last year, did they get a chance to talk to Ricky Wagner at all? Did they exchange offers at all? They apparently made Alshon Jeffrey a multi-year offer but was it too low? We’ll never know. At least they tried.

Managing the cap has to be hard because if you get really tight, then you will be forced to restructure some contracts or worst case, release some players you would prefer to keep. But players have to agree and I cannot blame any of them for refusing to take a pay cut.

This brings me to the ginormous decision the team has to make at the QB position. Whatever they do will change the course of the team in the next few years. If they miss then they had better have a plan B and hope that plan works out. I am guessing that plan is Kyle Sloter right now which is legitimate cause for concern just because he has not played one regular season NFL game.

This post is about how the Vikings can sign Kirk Cousins and what it could do to their cap situation going forward a couple of years. It includes a guess at a contract amount and a guess at extension amounts for the current in house soon to be free agents. The amounts may be too high. Also, I am not changing the cap from the projected 178 mil in 2018 for future years. So, if the cap goes up then there would be more cap space in the future years.

First let’s talk about Cousins qualifications. Here is a pretty good article discussing Cousins (of course I am biased) ...

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/sports/level/professional/the-numbers-don-t-lie-kirk-cousins-is-elite/article_58d64dfe-ac06-5528-ba3d-46b9838d063d.html

Just how good is Cousins, who had “leading” rushers the last three years named Alfred Morris, Robert Kelley and Perine, and who only had a healthy quality receiving corps in one season — 2016? Don’t get too nostalgic about DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. They averaged 1,025 receiving yards per man in ’16, but in ‘15 only 603 apiece. When the jury reaches its verdict on Cousins, it will conclude that usually he acted alone.

Brees, Ryan and Roethlisberger have similar stats to Cousins, and in some areas not as good, but they have Jones, Brown and Michael Thomas who caught 1,444, 1,533 and 1,245 yards worth of passes this year.

...

Let’s look at three key measures of quarterback excellence over the last three years. One is traditional: quarterback rating. The top six are Brady (105.0), Brees (102.1), Wilson (98.9), Ryan (98.7), Rodgers (97.2) and Cousins (97.5).

...

Looked at this way, Brady, with a 99-22 touchdown-to-turnover ratio, and Rodgers, 92-30, are almost in a different quarterback universe. The next most impressive group, with tons of touchdowns but half as many turnovers (or less), are Brees (97-40), Wilson (94-38), Newton (97-47) and Cousins (94-47.)

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Here is another article breaking down Cousins in Dec of 2016 ...

https://sports.yahoo.com/news/greg-cosells-film-review-kirk-cousins-has-matured-into-a-good-quarterback-171404308.html

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Let’s talk about the number of turnovers attributed to him which many a fan points to as evidence that he is not worthy.

Here are some numbers to consider of QBs in their year 4th through 6th seasons ...

Kirk Cousins – 81 TDs, 36 INTs, 31 fumbles

Aaron Rodgers – 86 TDs, 31 INTs, 24 fumbles

Drew Brees – 77 TDs, 33 INTs, 22 fumbles

Ben Roethlisberger – 75 TDs, 38 INTs, 30 fumbles

Philip Rivers – 83 TDs, 35 INTs, 25 fumbles

Matt Ryan – 87 TDs, 43 INTs, 13 fumbles

Matthew Stafford – 71 TDs, 48 INTs, 28 fumbles

... Cousins is very similar to all of these other QBs who most would consider in the top 10 or very close.

Every QB commits turnovers at a higher rate early in their careers.

Most fumbles are not their fault and you can look at each QB and every fumble and probably blame 80% or more on the offensive linemen missing a block. Look at what happened at the end of the Super Bowl. Was that Tom Brady’s fault he fumbled? I suppose for some fans it would be but I cannot really blame the QB.

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The next often read argument is how the Redskins did not want him.

They tagged him two years straight which is a clear sign they did not want to lose him. They never tried to trade him otherwise he would have been traded (there were probably conversations). They did make him an offer after he signed the second tag and before the deadline to negotiate an extension of that tag. Their GM publicly revealed the terms of that deal which is something that almost never happens.

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/bruce-allen-redskins-offered-kirk-cousins-53-million-but-he-prefers-franchise-tag/

Our goal was to sign Kirk to a long-term contract with the final objective of having him finish his career with the Redskins.

On May 2nd, right after the draft, we made Kirk an offer that included the highest fully guaranteed amount upon signing for a quarterback in NFL history ($53 million) and guaranteed a total of $72 million for injury. The deal would have made him at least the second highest-paid player by average per year in NFL history.

But despite our repeated attempts, we have not received any offer from Kirk’s agent this year.

I do not see how all of these events can lead to the conclusion that the Redskins did not want him unless they were just lying. Now they are desperately considering tagging him again in order to trade him to a team that is willing to at least pay him the tagged amount. Maybe the Browns would pay him 34 mil in 2018 and give up a 2nd or 3rd round pick? They have a ton of picks. Perhaps they might feel the only way to get him is via a trade. But the problem is that he has to sign the tag before they can trade him and once he does, then he is back under the control of the Redskins. I doubt he does that and the longer he waits to sign the tag the harder it will make it for the Redskins to do anything in free agency. It is a last gasp effort that I do not see working out in the Redskins favor. They will have to accept getting a 2019 3rd round compensatory pick. They could use that to trade this year too even though they do not have it yet.

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I think he has all the makings of a top QB in the NFL for at least a few more years and that should come with more experience (he only has 3 years starting) and with a pretty dang good cast around him.

Here is an article where Kyle Shanahan thinks he is similar to Brees ...

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/22280667/kirk-cousins-free-world-watching-nfl

Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay all thought, at various points, that Cousins might be the next Drew Brees, and they worked hard to persuade him of as much. “I remember Kyle saying, ‘Just keep playing. I think you’ve got a chance to be a Drew Brees-type player someday,’ “ Cousins told me in November. “I kept saying, ‘Wow. I appreciate the belief and confidence. I want to go prove you right.’ Kyle said, ‘You don’t have to prove me right. I know I’m right.’ “

I don’t know but these coaches are pretty smart and they have had some success. There is likely going to be a question about why Shanahan did not trade for Cousins and unless anyone knows what the Skins were asking or if they would even consider trading him to the 49ers we will never know.

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The next and most often argument you hear is about how the Vikings cannot afford him and if they choose to sign him how it would prevent them from extending their own soon to be free agents Barr, Diggs, Kendricks, Hunter, and Waynes. The other free agents are not going to make a lot.

Right now, the cap is projected to be 178 million and here is what is on the books according to spotrac.

http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/minnesota-vikings/cap/

In 2018, the Vikings have 60.1 mil in cap space if they release Floyd which is pretty much a lock and account for dead money of 656K. This cap number is for 50 players.

How can they add Kirk Cousins, extend Barr, Hunter, Diggs, & Kendricks plus sign some in house UFAs and/or other UFAs?

Below is an example of how the contracts offers could look for 2018. Obviously, they may be too high or low and the actual details would be different as Brez is the Master.

Now that Jimmy G has signed a 5 year 137.5 mil deal it does push Cousins a little higher but he might be willing to take a bit less.

Cousins - 5 yr 140.5 mil deal, with a 35 mil signing bonus, 62 mil guaranteed at signing and another 35 mil guaranteed for injury which would be a 15 mil salary in 2020, 10 mil roster bonus in 2020, and a 10 mil roster bonus in 2021.

2018 cap hit - 27.1 mil

2019 cap hit - 14.1 mil

2020 cap hit - 32.1 mil

2021 cap hit - 33.1 mil After 3 years they could cut or trade him and save 19 mil in cap space.

2022 cap hit - 34.1 mil

Remaining cap space 33 mil.

spotrac has Anthony Barr’s market value at 7.7 mil.

http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/minnesota-vikings/anthony-barr-14418/market-value/

It is a little difficult seeing him accept that amount. If the Vikings do try it he could refuse and just play on his 12.3 mil 5th year amount and then become a free agent in 2019.

Barr - 4 yr 42 mil deal, with a 10 mil signing bonus, and 31 mil guaranteed at signing.

Similar to Telvin Smith and Alec Ogletree. This gives him the 12.3 he is already guaranteed plus another 19 mil.

2018 cap hit - 12.1 mil *

2019 cap hit - 4.1 mil

2020 cap hit - 11.1 mil

2021 cap hit - 12.1 mil After 3 years they could cut or trade him and save 8 mil in cap space.

2022 cap hit - 13.1 mil

Remaining cap space 33.2 mil

(*Barr’s current cap hit in 2018 is 12.3 mil and is already accounted for so this extension adds 200K to the cap)

Hunter - 5 yr 77.5 mil deal, with a 15 mil signing bonus, and 35.892 mil guaranteed at signing.

Similar to Jason Pierre-Paul.

2018 cap hit - 5.062 mil * (only 3 mil extra cap space used)

2019 cap hit - 11.1 mil

2020 cap hit - 15.1 mil

2021 cap hit - 15.1 mil After 3 years they could cut or trade him and save 9 mil in cap space.

2022 cap hit - 16.1 mil

2023 cap hit - 17.1 mil

Remaining cap space 30.2 mil

(*Hunter’s current cap hit in 2018 is 2.062k and is already accounted for)

Diggs - 4 yr 45.5 mil deal, with a 14 mil signing bonus, and 21.4 mil guaranteed at signing. Similar to Keenan Allen.

2018 cap hit - 5.462 mil * (only 3.5 mil extra cap space used)

2019 cap hit - 9.1 mil

2020 cap hit - 11.6 mil

2021 cap hit - 12.6 mil After 3 years they could cut or trade him and save 9 mil in cap space.

2022 cap hit - 9.1 mil

Remaining cap space 26.7 mil

(*Digg’s current cap hit in 2018 is 1.962k and is already accounted for)

Kendricks - 4 yr 37.4 mil deal, with a 5 mil signing bonus, a 5 mil roster bonus in 2019, and 21.6 mil guaranteed at signing.

Similar to Christian Kirksey.

2018 cap hit - 2.641 mil * (only 1 mil extra cap space used)

2019 cap hit - 8.1 mil

2020 cap hit - 9.1 mil

2021 cap hit - 10.1 mil After 3 years they could cut or trade him and save 8 mil in cap space.

2022 cap hit - 10.1 mil

Remaining cap space 25.7 mil

(*Kendrick’s current cap hit in 2018 is 1.641 mil and is already accounted for)

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In 2019, the Vikings have 66.5 mil in cap space for 30 players not counting Waynes.

The above extensions would reduce that by 46.5 leaving only 20 mil.

Give Waynes a 5 year 52 mil with a 10 mil signing bonus and 4.1 mil first year cap hit leaving 15.9 mil in cap space.Also, you have to figure the 2018 rookies 2nd year amounts so lets’ say 6 mil.

And you need another 4.5 mil for the 2019 rookies.

That leaves only 5.5 mil and I am sure I am forgetting some other smaller deals to get to 53 players.

However, Rudolph is due 7.625 mil, Sendejo is due 5.5 mil, and Murray is due 5 mil. That adds up to 18.125 mil. I am not saying they would cut these players but they surely will get asked to extend/restructure.

If they moved on from Griffen they would save 10.7 mil in cap space. If they moved on from Remmers they would save 4.55 mil.

So there is room to play in 2019.

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In 2020, there are only 15 players under contract and the current cap space is 93.1 mil. The new extensions including Waynes adds up to 88.1 mil.

The remaining cap space would be 5 mil and does not include the 2018 or 2019 rookies.But there likely will be adjustments in 2019 so looking to this year is kind of tough without knowing what those adjustments will be in 2019.

I think what this illustrates is that some players will either not be here or will have to restructure in 2019 and 2020. And it shows that I am not a capologist like Brez!

I believe the smart thing is to sign your young players and then the older players will be the ones that get consideration.

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So to finish up 2018, there was 25.7 mil left in cap space and none of the in-house free agents (UFA, RFA, or ERFA) are signed yet.

The RFAs are Anthony Harris, Nick Easton, Jeremiah Sirles, & Cornelius Edison. The ERFAs are Mack Brown & Jeff Overbaugh.THE UFAs are the 3 QBs, Jerrick McKinnon, Bishop Sankey, Michael Floyd, Joe Berger, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen,

Terrence Newman, Marcus Sherels, Tramaine Brock, and Kai Forbath.

Not sure I would sign any besides Easton, Harris, and Sirles because they are RFAs but they will be small deals and not guaranteed.

I could see them giving out new deals to Easton (2.5 mil), Sirles (800K), and Harris (800k). This adds up to about 4.1 mil.

The remaining cap space would be 21.6 mil with which they would need to add a few free agents.

I think a guard, defensive tackle, and corner back would be at the top of the list.

I could see them not going after any high priced free agent besides Cousins. I know a lot of people want to see them get Andrew Norwell but I think the Panthers will find a way to keep him. He is only 26 and has played really really well. You cannot let those players leave the team.

Ryan Kalil has said that next year is his last year too. That takes 9.8 mil off the books for 2019. Matt Kalil is due 12.9 mil in 2019 which if they let him go they would save 5.7 mil. They will need to extend Darryl Williams in 2019 too. I cannot see them not figuring out a way. They could give Norwell a 12 mil signing bonus with a 1.6 mil salary which would only be a 4 mil cap hit in year one.

Yeah, Norwell is not going to hit free agency. They are not that stupid.

I think the Vikings could target a Justin Pugh this off season and offer a 3 or 4 year for about 7 mil per year. He has missed 13 games the last two years so maybe they add in some game bonuses the first two years of 100K per game?

Another guard who may be available and would have to take a prove it type deal would be Jack Mewhort from the Colts. He has missed 19 games in his first 4 years (11 last year and 6 in 2016).

A defensive tackle I like is Ra’shede Hageman but he was put on the commissioner’s exempt list and then cut by the Falcons for a domestic violence incident. If that is behind him he might come to play in Minnesota on a one year prove it deal for cheap (like 1 mil or so). That could be a sneaky good signing. Of course, it would piss some people off but I believe in second chances.

I think for the most part they could just sign Cousins, a guard, extend their own players, and then wait out free agency a week or two before signing players on really cheap prove it deals.

It will take some gymnastics in 2019 but it could be done.

Also, these scenarios are based off a cap of 178 mil with no extra included for 2019 and 2020.

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So now there is 21.6 left to spend in free agency and to use for the draft picks.

Below is what I would do for the rest of free agency and the draft. The Vikings are projected to get two comp picks at the end of the 6th round for the loss of AP and CP84 ... https://overthecap.com/projecting-2018-compensatory-picks/

Free agents

Justin Pugh (G) accepted your 4 year offer for $7,000,000 per year

Jay Bromley (DL) accepted your 2 year offer for $2,500,000 per year

Ross Cockrell (CB) accepted your 3 year offer for $3,000,000 per year

Draft

TRADES

DENVER BRONCOS

SENT: ROUND: 1 PICK: 30

RECEIVED: ROUND: 2 PICK: 8 & ROUND: 3 PICK: 36

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

SENT: ROUND: 2 PICK: 30

RECEIVED: ROUND: 3 PICK: 6 & ROUND: 5 PICK: 6

CAROLINA PANTHERS

40: R2P8 DL DA’RON PAYNE ALABAMA

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

70: R3P6 CB MIKE HUGHES UCF

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - UCF v Auburn Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

94: R3P30 TE MIKE GESICKI PENN STATE

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

100: R3P36 DL RASHEEM GREEN USC

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 01 Pac-12 Championship Game Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

145: R5P6 WR D.J. CHARK LSU

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl - Notre Dame v LSU Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

169: R5P30 G WYATT TELLER VIRGINIA TECH

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 03 PItt at Virginia Tech Photo by Jeffrey Lack/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

207: R6P30 RB AKRUM WADLEY IOWA

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

214: R6P37 OT AUSTIN CORBETT NEVADA

217: R6P40 K DANIEL CARLSON AUBURN

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - UCF v Auburn Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An alternate mock

Using the drafttek mock with no trades

https://www.drafttek.com/2018-NFL-Mock-Draft-Round1.asp

R1P30: OT CONNOR WILLIAMS OT TEXAS

R2P30: TE DALLAS GOEDERT SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

R3P30: DL RASHEEM GREEN USC

R5P30: RB KERRYON JOHNSON AUBURN

R6P30 CB SIRAN NEAL JACKSONVILLE STATE

R6P37 QB KYLE LAULETTA RICHMOND

R6P40 OG AUSTIN CORBETT NEVADA

If you made it through all of this then I can only offer my condolences. :)