Breaking Down the Chances/Realism of the Cousins/Garoppolo Rumor(s)

As I prep for my weekly appearance on KLGR Radio’s ‘The Scoop’ with Seth Toupal (my vote for People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2020, 2021 – 2025, 2027-infinity), he and I typically text ideas back and forth about what Vikings topics from that week we should talk about. This week, we ran through the gamut of the different trade rumors that are surrounding different players on the Vikings roster, and one stood out in particular as it wasn’t something that was being batted around the local Vikings media landscape.

That was the Kirk Cousins for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo trade that national talking heads like Mike Florio have discussed in the past, as it’s widely known that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has had his eyes on Vikings quarterback Cousins for years. You can hear my reaction to that question here:

After the show, I thought about the topic some more and decided to write an article about it, and ran across something from that really laid things out nicely.

So, let’s take a look at what got us here.

Current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan LOVES him some Kirk Cousins. That’s a point that was made almost creepily clear on ESPN this week by Diana Russini of the show/proof that ESPN is running out of names for their repeated, failing morning shows, ‘Get Up’ (as first reported on, at least on my computer,

On that show, Russini essentially poo poo’d the replacement of Jimmy G. by his former starting QB/nemesis Tom Brady, and instead pointed out that Cousins could end up wearing the same colors as NFL greats Joe Montana, and Steve Young after his contract expires with the Vikings after the 2020 season.

As the article from points out, there may be something to that idea as Shanahan told that he and 49ers GM John Lynch were STILL interested in pursuing Kirk Cousins AFTER they had traded a second-round pick for Garappolo (back in December of 2018).

Lynch went the extra step in the “Let’s piss off our new franchise QB” process and went on ESPN radio, to ensure that Garopollo was insecure via every medium known to man (television, radio, internet, and print (via Sports Illustrated)), and said that Shanahan was in “mourning” over the fact that he wasn’t able to reunite with his favorite QB/apparent soul mate, Cousins.

Joe Nelson, of, had can take the next point here (as I’m essentially paraphrasing his article (so far)):

“Garoppolo helped take the 49ers to the Super Bowl last season, but a report from NBC Sports Boston recently said Shanahan has questions about just how good Garoppolo can be, also questioning the 28-year-old’s decision-making. “

That’s something that I pointed out on my soon-to-be relaunched “daily” live Vikings show, About the Labor Live! in the week leading up to the Vikings/9ers Divisional Round playoff game.

In that show, I pointed out a few weaknesses those in the 49ERS media had pointed out in Garoppolo’s game. Most of which include, yes the bad decisions mentioned above, but also an inability to work through progressions/look off coverage down the field. His accuracy outside of the middle of the field/beyond 10 yards and outside of the hash marks (ie, George Kittle territory) also has been pointed out as a concern as well.

Say what you will about Cousins, but he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL down the field, especially when he has time. That’s something we were able to witness during the NFL Skills Competition at the Pro Bowl, where he scored the most points of any NFL QB, even with a malfunctioning piece of equipment perhaps hurting his chance at a few more 3-point throws.
Who Needs a Super Bowl Title when you have this? Eh? EH?!? eh…

While the 49ers aren’t a top ten unit in terms of their offensive line (or they weren’t during the 2019 regular season), the return of Joe Staley in the postseason proved to be too much for most of the opponents the 49ers faced (especially when it came to opening holes on the ground for their trio of running backs (and especially Raheem Mostert)), and the line in the Bay Area is much better than the 27th-ranked pass blocking unit that Cousins played behind in 2019.

The real question is whether or not desire means anything in terms of the real possibility of Cousins eschewing any offers from the Vikings to extend his contract beyond 2020. That very well could be, as really any hope the Vikings may have in resigning Cousins may require an actual pay INCREASE beyond 2021 (with perhaps a lower cap hit in 2020).

What am I basing that on, you ask?

Well, Cousins signed a three-year deal with the Vikings before the 2018 season for a reason and that reason was that he knew that his new deal would reset the market for franchise QBs in the league and that more established quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers would then increase the average payday for QBs, which’d benefit Cousins again should he play well enough to earn an extension with the Vikings or hit the free-agent market yet again before the 2021 season.

While that question may seem still up in the air for the fans of the Vikings, it’s safe to say that there’s at least one team in the league that’d offer Cousins a least $31 million a season beyond 2020, and it probably isn’t the one we all love.

The 49ers have over $12 million in cap space for 2020 as of the writing of this article and are at the full cap allotment for 2021 (although, I believe that may be because the cap for 2021 hasn’t been solidified yet), but they’re still in better shape than the Vikings who, again, trail the league in terms of cap space even after they granted Everson Griffen his request to opt-out of his already restructured deal.

That’d just leave the last two years on Garoppolo’s deal (which, as you’ll see below, are dead cap-friendly), which may make a trade the better option for both teams (especially as it’d open up about $7 million for the Vikings in 2020), assuming that this’d happen. But I’ve got a news flash for everyone, it’s not going to.

The Vikings have two very important pieces that have contracts expiring after the 2020 season and I’m not talking about Dalvin Cook or the aforementioned Cousins, but instead people that are even more important, their head coach and general manager. Both Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman have 2020 to prove to the Wilf Family that they should continue on with the franchise and while Spielman is considered to be relatively safe in that regard, it’s clear that Zimmer has a one-year fix it or byeeeeeeee situation looming over his shoulders.

Considering that he basically fired himself by letting former defensive coordinator George Edwards go (and by bringing in Dom Capers, and elevating Gary Kubiak to full offensive coordinator), the fall guy for the REAL D-Coordinator in Zimmer. The Kubiak deal was a foregone conclusion after Zimmer stated that the main thing the team was looking for it it’s OC “search” was “Continuity”.

Why, then, would he pull the trigger on a deal that’d give the Vikings yet another new quarterback? Especially one that is younger, and cheaper than Cousins yet somehow not deemed the better option by the team that made it to the Super Bowl with him?

The only other possibility would be that the Niners would cut Garoppolo after the 2020 season (as he’s only due $4.2 million, $2.8 million, and $1.4 million in dead cap space in the 2020, ’21 and ’22 seasons) and then sign Cousins (and then perhaps the Vikings could sign Jimmy, for most likely more than he’d be due had the Niners kept him). While dead cap space typically decreases each year, it’s a pretty dramatic drop from the $41 and near $14 million amounts from the previous two seasons (perhaps by design? For this very reason?).

That means that Jimmy G. has to prove himself in 2020, something that some believe he already has (considering his W-L record as a starter), and… You know, the fact that it was the defense that cost the Niners their shot at a Super Bowl, not Garoppolo. That also means that, while it’d be against NFL tampering rules for the Niners to do this, any non-extension by Cousins in 2020 might be a sign that at least one party in this scenario is holding out either for more money or green… Redder and Golder pastures.

Some, myself included, have said that extending Cousins should be Topic 1A for the Vikings this year, but with free agency only a week away, it’s a bit surprising that we haven’t heard anything about that yet (as again, you could extend him and then lower his 2020 cap hit, perhaps).

So, stay tuned to and for all of your Vikings free agent, trade, draft, trade and draft rumor, free agent rumor, free trade and draft agent… Rumor Willis (?) this off-season as we next see just what the Vikings will do on free agency Wednesday, and then in April’s draft!