The Skol Debate: To QB or Not to QB, That is Kwesi’s Question

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
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Any Hamlet fans in the house? If so, then we hope you enjoy the title’s allusion. Regardless of how you feel about the long-dead playwright and his vast oeuvre, the hope is that another foray into some verbal jousting will lift your spirits on a cold, January day.

Like Michael Jordan coming out of retirement, Austin Powers getting his Mojo back, or the McRib getting back onto the McDonald’s menu, PurplePTSD‘s “Skol Debate” has re-emerged to ask the tough questions. Namely, what should Minnesota do at the game’s most important position? Our divided world has given way to a pair of broad camps where most Vikings fans will hang out.

Sep 17, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) attempts a pass as he is pressured by Tennessee Titans defensive end Denico Autry (96) and defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons (98) in overtime at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings are staring down a tremendously important few months (the GM said it’s going to be a “big offseason“). Kirk Cousins is going to be a free agent. Re-signing him makes a lot of sense, especially since Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has already confirmed that he intends on doing so. However, Minnesota’s 11th pick should be a nice spot to land someone like Bo Nix or Michael Penix. Jr. Plus, the 11th pick could be used as leverage to hop up the board, perhaps with a team like the Los Angeles Chargers at 5th.

Which option is better?

The usual combatants are back in action. On the one side is K. Joudry, who will be arguing that signing Kirk Cousins — even at the cost of a 1st-round QB — is the way to go. On the other side is Josh Frey, who will be articulating the case for picking a youngster while eschewing a Cousins reunion.

In other words, the current debate doesn’t allow for the middle ground that seems likely: keeping Cousins while also drafting a quarterback. Instead, the debaters are seeking to give a full-throated defense to both sides of the extreme.

Oct 23, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

And, of course, we welcome thoughts, feedback, and opinions. Find Joudry, Frey, and PurplePTSD more broadly on social media. Onwards to the debate.

The Skol Debate:
To QB or Not to QB, That is Kwesi’s The Debater’s Question

KJ: Back again, Josh, after a bit of a hiatus. Once again, we’ll be trying to beat each other up, but with our words. 

Before doing so, let’s establish some critical context. The subject for us to consider is how Minnesota should proceed at quarterback (the rumor is that at least one or two Vikings fans are interested in this conundrum). 

The Vikings are going to be welcoming back Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall in 2024 (as long as there’s no shenanigans). Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins and Joshua Dobbs are getting closer and closer to free agency. 

Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks Nick Mullens (12) and Kirk Cousins (8) talk during warm ups at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings then have to decide what to do at 11th overall. Sticking within that pick slot could result in a high-upside quarterback being available. Alternatively, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could partner that pick with several others to climb into the top 10, with the Los Angeles Chargers at #5 looking like a natural trade partner for any team looking to snag someone like Jayden Daniels. 

Anything I’m missing on these basics, Josh? Other context that’s needed?

JF: First and foremost, it’s great to be back in the ring and Skol Debating with you again, Kyle. 

As for today’s topic, the Vikings certainly do have a lot to consider at the quarterback position this offseason. It seems that Minnesota desires to bring Cousins back in free agency, but as we all know, nothing is certain in January when it comes to NFL free agency.

NFL Executives Were Impressed by the Vikings 2023 Draft
Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo Mensah speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It is worth noting that the Vikings are set to pay $28.5 million against the cap for Cousins regardless of if he is on the team or not. This could be added encouragement for the Vikings to shell out a contract that keeps him in Minnesota for at least one more season, but how much confidence do they actually have in him post-Achilles injury?

There is a ton of talent at the QB position in this upcoming draft, and like you mentioned, the Vikings are sitting in an intriguing spot at 11th overall to draft that “quarterback of the future.” 

As I understand it, Kyle, today you will be arguing the case for Minnesota to keep Cousins around for the 2024 season. So, why should the Vikings keep him around rather than turn the keys of the offense over to a rookie passer?

KJ: Let’s assume, for the sake of today’s argument, that the Vikings can’t do both: draft a QB and keep Cousins. That’s not reality, no, but it could make for a tidier debate. In a world where re-signing Cousins and drafting a youngster can’t co-exist, I’ll insist that keeping Kirk Cousins is the right move. 

Reason #1: There is quite a bit of certainty that comes from Mr. Cousins. Or, put differently, he offers both a high floor and a high ceiling whereas a rookie QB offers a low floor and a high ceiling. 

True, the Achilles tear introduces a new, unexpected issue since the QB who never gets hurt is now recovering from a major injury, but the track record still needs to mean something. Until Week 8 in Green Bay, Cousins never got hit. Huge hit after huge hit and Cousins just kept chucking. 

His toughness has always been underrated. 

Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes against the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I’m proceeding under the assumption that Cousins will be back to full health well before the opening snap arrives for the 2024 regular season. As you note, the QB is looking to be fully healthy in time for OTAs. I’m also expecting that, like Brian O’Neill, Cousins will be able to get back to (at least) his normal level of play. In that scenario, Cousins is certainly worthy of an extension. 

Justin Jefferson has been re-writing the receiver record books with Cousins tossing him the pigskin. One of the absolute worst things Minnesota could so is squander a talent like #18. How would Minnesota do that? By inserting a quarterback who doesn’t have the capacity to get the ball to the team’s WR1. The NFL’s corners have proven that they can’t hang with Jefferson, meaning the only thing that will keep JJets from taking off is subpar QB play. 

With Kirk under center, the Vikings know (with a reasonable degree of certainty, at least) that their top receiver is going to get fed, which is to say nothing of maximizing the talent of Mr. Addison and Mr. Hockenson. 

Prior to getting injured, Cousins was legitimately playing the best football of his career. Taking the year to recover could actually help the veteran QB since he’s been working through several months where the only thing he could really do was digest the sport in a mental manner. Cousins’ best asset has always been his brain, so the possibility exists that he’ll be even sharper in September. 

Have I persuaded you at all, Josh? Why should the Vikings risk things by going QB high instead of the safer bet within the veteran incumbent?

JF: Cousins certainly has been a talented player throughout his NFL career; there is no denying that fact. 

However, the QB is entering his age-36 season, and he only has so many years left at the top of his game. If there was a guarantee that Cousins would be able to play at the same level he was pre-injury for the next three years, I would be completely on board with bringing him back rather than drafting a player.

That being said, I don’t think we can consider this to be guaranteed by any means. The hits have piled up over the years, and he is coming off a very serious injury. We’ve seen veteran quarterbacks enter their mid-30s and begin having their production slide. Russell Wilson is an example of this over the past couple seasons in Denver as was Matt Ryan in Atlanta and Indianapolis. 

Nov 19, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) reacts after the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings do have an excellent group of young players at skill positions on offense, which could extend Cousins’ career, but a receiving group like Jordan Addison and Justin Jefferson along with Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill at the offensive tackle spots also makes Minnesota a perfect spot to develop a young quarterback. 

Minnesota is going to have to think about who’s next at the quarterback position eventually, and in my opinion, it would be better to do that while their other stars are cheap. At some point, between all the aforementioned players, the Vikings are going to have too many young stars to pay them all while also acquiring talent in free agency. 

Any team’s Super Bowl window is limited, and the clock is ticking in Minnesota. With all the talent available at the QB position in this year’s draft, now is as good a time as any to strike and at least make an attempt at finding a new QB. 

KJ: Blending the contracts for all of the talent is indeed an issue (albeit a good one; oh, what will Minnesota do with the abundance of talent!?!).

Nevertheless, I think I can press my point. 

Consider, for instance, what Philadelphia did in their recent contract for Jalen Hurts. The basic facts look scary: a 5-year, $255 million deal. A quick look under the hood makes it easier to understand for the Eagles. His 2023 cat hit was roughly $6.15 million, his 2024 cap hit will be roughly $13.56 million, and his 2025 cap hit will be roughly $21.77 million. Bargains, Joshua, bargains. 

Even 2026 doesn’t look too bad, coming in at “just” $31.77 million before hopping into the 40s in 2027 & 2028. 

Now, part of the cost of doing business is getting ultra frisky with void years and risking a humongous dead cap charge down the road, but the point remains: if the goal is to slide into a two-three year window, then Cousins could very reasonably be the best option. The money will always be malleable in the NFL, so Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Rob Brzezinski would have options. 

Coming back would mean he is entering his third consecutive season under the same play caller, which will feel like an eternity in the Cousins household. Rather than needing to learn another new system, Cousins can simply build on the firm foundation that’s already present. 

Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on during mandatory mini camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Can a rookie master O’Connell’s complex offense? When the clock is ticking down toward zero and the QB is supposed to make the right checks, will the rookie wilt? Truthfully, it’s tough to say. No doubt: some of the young fellas are brilliant, and yet there’s no teacher like experience. 

What I’ll come back to, then, is Kirk Cousins’ greatest asset: his brain. He then displays tremendous professionalism by taking care of his body as well as (if not better) than anyone else. He has established himself as possibly the key leader on the team and has far more arm talent than people give him credit for. Bringing it all together is some good pocket presence. For a while, that was an issue with Cousins, but he has turned it into a strength, showing great poise while subtly sifting through the pass-rush wreckage.

Put all of that into khaki pants and a button up shirt and Minnesota is looking at their QB1 for at least 2024 and 2025.

And while the warning about players like Ryan, Wilson, and other gray beards makes sense, Cousins simply hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Instead, he was looking better than ever. He has been aging like wine, not milk. 

Let me put it this way. The Vikings are sitting at 11th. Who is going to be available at that spot who should supplant Cousins? Or, even better, who could they realistically trade up for to jump into the driver’s seat within the O’Connell offense?

JF: These are all fair points. Money certainly is malleable at the NFL level. 

However, I still worry about pushing money down the line and leaving the Vikings in a similar spot to where they were just last offseason, fighting to free up cap space and remain relevant in the free agency period.

Personally, I would do everything in my power to trade up for the aforementioned Jayden Daniels out of LSU. The quarterback has proven capable of showing up against some of the top defenses in college football, and he has all the tools to be successful at the NFL level.

Daniels possesses a beautiful deep ball that rivals any in this upcoming draft (ranked No.1 per PFF in deep passing among all college QBs) while his ability to scramble and pick up tough yards with his legs would add an element to Minnesota’s offense that we haven’t really seen with Cousins. 

Assuming the recent reports that Minnesota was willing to “trade the farm” for Anthony Richardson last spring are true, I would be stunned if the Vikings didn’t have their eyes on Daniels this year.

Oct 21, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) celebrates a touchdown against the Army Black Knights during the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

If the Vikings are worried about Jefferson committing to a rookie QB, there is no easier sales pitch to make than for a Heisman winner from his alma mater. 

In the end, winning a Super Bowl is the ultimate goal for any NFL team. I remain under the belief that there is a fine window with Cousins (heck, it could be a nonexistent window based on what we’ve seen occur in years past) while nailing a pick at the top of the draft could extend that window by at least a few years and allow the team to retain young talent like Addison, Darrisaw, and Jefferson. 

Minnesota eventually is going to have to rip off the Band-Aid on the Cousins experiment. I think we’d both agree that the best option is to re-sign Cousins for a year or two while also drafting a QB (i.e. steal the Packers’ QB development blueprint), but if that is not an option, I would prefer that they rip off said Band-Aid quickly and ring in a new era of Vikings football with Daniels at the helm.

It’s a risky option, to be sure, but with other teams in the NFC North taking massive strides over the past couple years, the Vikings cannot afford to stand pat. They need to be willing to take these risks at some point, and this QB class offers the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Any closing arguments from you, Kyle?

KJ: Final word from me will be simply to echo one of the broad thoughts shining through in that answer.

Minnesota cannot be timid as they take their next steps. Proceeding with fear-inspired complacency would be the death knell to any Super Bowl hope — as far off as that feels right around now. The hope, at least to my mind, would be for a Cousins reunion alongside a huge effort to supercharge the defense. More specifically, bring that high-floor and (reasonably) high-ceiling QB back while committing to turning the Brian Flores defense into a top-10 unit.

The theory, then, is that a healthy Cousins and then a second season with the Brian “The Blitz” Flores at the helm would open a championship window. A pair of top-10 groups would do the trick.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

If, however, the team wants to get younger, then Jayden Daniels does seem like the perfect fit.

In recent years, Minnesota has done quite well with LSU. Danielle Hunter and Justin Jefferson stand out, but Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has selected more players from that program than anywhere else: Ed Ingram, Jay Ward, and Jaquelin Roy. Put differently, he has turned three of his sixteen selections into LSU players. Going back to Louisiana for more young talent wouldn’t be shocking, especially given some of Daniels’ abilities that you mention.

And while we’ve dug into the debate over these past few minutes, Josh, there’s plenty more that can (and will be) said. I, like so many others, will be watching with great fascination.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.