The Minnesota Vikings should trade starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. Or they should at least make a valiant attempt to do so.
The Vikings are officially a team in limbo. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has spent the offseason ridding himself of aging talent and bloated contracts. The transformation is incomplete with Cousins on the roster.
Superstar running back Dalvin Cook joined the mass list of exits this week. Veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen was also released earlier this offseason, as was linebacker Eric Kendricks. Za’Darius Smith was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Patrick Peterson wasn’t re-signed. Cousins and Harrison Smith feel like the last remaining members of the old guard.
It hasn’t been a typical offseason for an organization that captured 13 regular-season victories and the NFC North division title last season. But an uber-disappointing first-round home defeat to the New York Giants exposed the cracks. Adofo-Mensah is responding by admitting the inevitable. The Vikings aren’t retooling for another Super Bowl run, they’re rebuilding.
Minnesota’s rebuild can’t be completed with Cousins on the roster. The soon-to-be 35-year-old signal-caller is entering a contract season. The Vikings weren’t interested in signing Cousins to a multi-year extension this summer. It’s a foregone conclusion that Cousins won’t quarterback the 2024 Vikings.
You can’t necessarily say the Vikings are tanking, although perhaps they should be. The 2024 NFL Draft appears loaded with high-end quarterback talent. USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye are standout prospects. Minnesota is stuck in the wasteland that is NFL purgatory. Cousins is too effective for the Vikings to win five games or fewer, but he’s not good enough to usher them to Super Bowl LVIII.
It’s not impossible to envision the Vikings contending for a second consecutive division title. The Green Bay Packers no longer have Aaron Rodgers. Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears are still rebuilding. The Detroit Lions are division favorites, but it’s put-up-or-shut-up time for a perennial underachiever. But winning the division would only further delay the inevitable for Minnesota.
Barring an unexpected injury in training camp or the preseason, there doesn’t appear to be many potential suitors for Cousins this late into the summer. Perhaps the Atlanta Falcons, whose coaching staff is in win-now mode, emerge as a destination. There’s pressure on Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke to perform.
The Washington Commanders are in a similar position from a pressure standpoint. Cousins’ return to Washington would be ironic, but he could represent an upgrade on Sam Howell or Jacoby Brissett. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers arguably have the league’s 32nd-ranked quarterback room with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask, but the Buccaneers are unlikely to afford Cousins given their difficult cap situation.
A reunion with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco would be the most fruitful, but the 49ers appear to be content with their stable of quarterbacks which includes Trey Lance, Sam Darnold, and Brock Purdy. If the 49ers fall short of their goals in 2023, San Francisco will become the favorite to land Cousins in next year’s free agency period.
Adofo-Mensah is preparing for Minnesota’s future. But that future remains extremely muddy as long as Cousins is playing quarterback.