The Minnesota Vikings can now officially begin putting their offseason plans in motion following the conclusion of Super Bowl LVI. Minnesota is expected to name Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell as their head coach as early as sometime this week following his participation in Sunday's Super Bowl triumph as Sean McVay's top offensive assistant. The Vikings have already hired their next general manager in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who comes to Minnesota after spending two seasons as the Cleveland Browns' vice president of football operations. Offseason plans and coaching staffs can begin taking shape once O'Connell officially arrives at Minnesota's headquarters. The Vikings must make several crucial decisions this offseason, the largest of which involves starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. The 33-year-old Cousins is entering the final year of his contract in 2022. Cousins is set to earn a healthy $35 million throughout the upcoming campaign while carrying a sizable cap hit of $45 million. How the Vikings should handle Cousins' contract will be a popular and present talking point throughout the offseason. Discussions surrounding a potential extension will be a part of that conversation, but the Vikings would be wise to wait for the 2022 offseason before making any rash decisions regarding the future of their quarterback position. Cousins qualifies as a holdover from the previous regime. The former Washington quarterback was originally acquired via free agency when Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer were in power, and it's currently unclear how Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell view the starting quarterback they've inherited. Both the new general manager and head coach would be best suited to spend the 2022 campaign analyzing Cousins’ play and how he best fits into their plans going forward. It's worth noting new head coach O'Connell does possess somewhat of a shared history with Cousins. O'Connell served as Washington's quarterbacks coach in 2017, which was Cousins' final season in Washington. That one-year experience could make Cousins' transition into a new offensive system more seamless, but five years have ultimately passed since O'Connell and Cousins last crossed paths. It's difficult to forecast the results Cousins will deliver in O'Connell's offensive scheme in 2022, which qualifies as a stark change in system from what Cousins has operated in Minnesota over the past few seasons under the likes of Kevin Stefanski and Klint Kubiak, among others. It partially represents why Adofo-Mensah should let the 2022 season play out before addressing Cousins' future. Playing the waiting game could cost the Vikings significant dollars should Cousins go nuclear in 2022 and demand a larger contract. It's a risk worth taking because the opposite represents a much worse scenario. The Vikings could look to the Carolina Panthers for a real-life cautionary tale. The Panthers inexplicably extended (via picking up his fifth-year option) Sam Darnold under a new regime before seeing the results for themselves. It's a situation that's imploded in Carolina's face and has left them stuck footing the bill for a below-average Darnold in 2022. The Vikings must take all precautions necessary to avoid copying and repeating such an unfortunate situation, even if it means Cousins ultimately plays well and gains leverage in contract discussions. It could even be viewed as a blessing in disguise, as such a scenario would mean Cousins took the Vikings far and Adofo-Mensah doesn’t need to enter quarterback purgatory. The difficulties of losing leverage in contract discussions with a good quarterback pale in comparison to the stressful search of finding a new signal-caller. Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell have much to figure out as they prepare to usher in a new era of Vikings football. The correct approach to Cousins' contract situation is a patient one.
- Sep 27, 2023
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