Deshaun Watson demanding a trade, along with the Lions making a blockbuster deal sending Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Jared Goff and a couple future first-round picks has fueled speculation about other QB-related deals that could go down this off-season.
After all there are still plenty of QB-needy teams out there, and not enough decent QB prospects in the coming draft to accommodate the demand, so naturally thoughts wander into what other QBs might be available for trade.
Apparently that list includes Kirk Cousins.
#49ers still looking to make a move at QB. Kirk Cousins, I'm told, is a name to keep an eye on. If #Vikings are open to dealing, San Francisco will push hard to acquire him. Ties with Shanahan make this an intriguing potential fit.— Evan Massey (@massey_evan) February 1, 2021
This tweet started the speculation, but a quick look into Evan Massey shows that he’s produced a bunch of speculative trade articles, including one a couple weeks ago suggesting the Vikings trade Adam Thielen to the Colts for a 2nd round pick. In other words, this isn’t a confirmed report from a credible source like Ian Rapoport or Tom Pelissero, but simply grist for the rumor mill.
But in fact, the most recent comment from the 49ers, after reportedly having some casual talk during the Senior Bowl with the Lions, and not making an official offer for Stafford, is that they’re planning to move forward with Jimmy Garoppolo. Moreover, there has been no signals from anyone in the Vikings organization that Kirk Cousins may be available- quite the opposite really.
So why the rumors? Well, except for two teams, it’s early in the off-season and not much else to talk about yet, so why not speculate on blockbuster trades to pass the time? That’s clearly one answer. But the other is that there is some basis for other teams to look into trading for Cousins. The question is how far any such discussions might go, what offer might ultimately get Rick Spielman and the Vikings to move Cousins, and whether another team would actually make it.
Why the Vikings Trading Kirk Cousins is Very Unlikely
The first thing Rick Spielman is likely to say if another GM called and asked him about trading Kirk Cousins, is that we’re very happy with Kirk, and he’s under contract with us for the next couple years. And based on both Spielman’s and Mike Zimmer’s comments at the end of the season, there is no reason to doubt that, or that Cousins himself is happy with his situation in Minnesota. So much so that it seems pretty likely that another contract extension will likely be inked between now and the beginning of the league year. Both Spielman and Zimmer like the continuity on offense, and see it as a good thing going forward. Moreover, if they did decide to trade Cousins, who would they get to replace him? A rookie first round draft pick? History suggests less than half of those pan out. What about another veteran QB? Which ones are available in a trade? Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t exactly an upgrade. Yes, Deshaun Watson may be available, and would be an upgrade over Cousins, but it’s unlikely Houston is going to pick up the phone to inquire about Cousins when most of the league is trying to get through on line one with offers for Watson.
And therein lies the answer to what Rick Spielman should, and likely would, demand for Cousins: whatever it takes to acquire Deshaun Watson. Spielman could simply ask Houston what they need for Watson, and that becomes the asking price for Cousins. Because why else would Spielman trade Cousins? Nobody wants to go through the trials and typical 2-3 year learning curve for a promising rookie QB to figure things out, especially when just as often they don’t figure it out, when Cousins is a top 10 quarterback under contract. It doesn’t make sense for the Vikings to make a deal to downgrade the the most important position in professional sports with a lesser veteran either. Yes, Cousins’ contract is expensive, but it’s also not over market value. Jared Goff and Ben Roethlisberger have higher AAV contracts than Cousins, and Carson Wentz is just under him. Deshaun Watson’s AAV is $39 million, second only to Patrick Mahomes.
Of course the problem with asking the same price for Cousins as Houston is asking for Watson is obvious. Why would a team pay the same price for Cousins when they could get Watson? Perhaps a team that saw Cousins as a better fit for them for some reason might do so, and maybe Kyle Shanahan thinks a lot of Cousins and wanted him years ago, and maybe the 49ers feel they need to upgrade the QB position to competitive in their division next season, and Cousins is a bit cheaper, but handing over a boatload of draft picks and/or players for Kirk Cousins or any player hasn’t been 49ers’ GM John Lynch’s modus operandi in the past, and it’s unlikely that changes now either.
The other problem for the Vikings is that a host of teams with tons of draft capital and/or salary cap space are making a run for Deshaun Watson, and one of them may very well complete the deal in the not too distant future, which leaves the only possible QB upgrade for the Vikings off the market. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami or the Jets offer the equivalent of 3 first-round picks to acquire Watson, and that’s simply a bridge too far for the Vikings given their salary cap situation and need to replace expensive players in the coming years with quality rookies. Without a quality team around him, Watson isn’t a miracle man. He went 4-12 this season.
Better for the Vikings to Invest in the Rest of the Team
Given all that, it doesn’t make sense for the Vikings to trade Cousins, either by betting the farm on Watson (and having little to build a team around him), or by trading for draft picks and starting over with a top rookie that may or may not work out in the end, and in all likelihood wouldn’t be as good as Cousins is now for at least a few years.
What does make sense is for the Vikings to extend Cousins in a reasonable deal, maybe even convince him to take a Tom Brady, below market deal, now that his family’s financial security is well in hand for generations, provide continuity and stability the rest of his career, and give him and the team a better chance at winning a Super Bowl. In any case, using a signing bonus to push more salary cap into future years when the salary cap will be higher, allowing the Vikings to keep or acquire more talent this coming year.
Football is still a team game after all. Just ask Tom Brady, who threw 3 interceptions in the NFC championship, 73.8 passer rating, and still beat the likely league MVP, Aaron Rodgers with a 101.6 passer rating, on the road, to advance to his 10th Super Bowl, on a below market, $25 million salary.
The likelihood that the Vikings trade Kirk Cousins this off-season is...
This poll is closed
100% - it’s an absolute certainty
75% - 99% - very likely
50% - 74% - somewhat likely
25% - 49% - not that likely
1% - 24% - very unlikely
0% - no chance whatsoever