Even before it was announced that the Washington Redskins had traded for Alex Smith there were a lot of people in Vikings writers world that were discussing the possibility of now-former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins joining the Vikings in 2018 and beyond. Perhaps not surprisingly, most have come out against it, as they believe one of two things (or a combination of the two), that Kirk Cousins is going to be incredibly expensive and/or that he’s definitely not worth the investment (and therefore not much better than what the Vikings had on their roster last season in Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and/or Sam Bradford). Now, I was the first on purplePTSD to put their thoughts down in writing (or on a Podcast), in my article about what the VIkings need to do to avoid a hangover season after the drubbing they faced in Philadelphia a few short weeks ago and in that article I stated that I was really a big fan of the move for Cousins. After discussing the move on the purpleJOURNAL Podcast Wednesday night with the fellas and special guest Jordan Reid (of ClimbingthePocket.com, VikingsTerritory.com and purplePTSD.com) I feel more than ever that adding Kirk Cousins to the roster would be a huge move that signifies that the Vikings are going all-in for a Super Bowl in the next two or three seasons and while the cost could be come prohibitive, I’d still take the Vikings with Kirk Cousins and without player X on defense than the Vikings with Case Keenum and the same defense, as that didn’t get the job done this season.
So, first, let’s talk about the idea that Kirk Cousins isn’t an elite quarterback. The argument that I’ve heard is that he is simply a product of his environment and that when he/The Redskins were stacked to the nines with playmakers on offense, Cousins had his best season (nearly 5,000 yards passing, 25 touchdowns to 12 interceptions) and that he isn’t a traditional playmaker outside of that, but rather that he’s just a decent quarterback playing around amazing talent (or that has had the luxury of playing around elite talent). Well, I’d argue that the Vikings offense, especially with Dalvin Cook returning next year, will be better than what the ‘Skins had in 2016-17 and, to be honest, I don’t care who gets the credit for that offense as long as Cousins is putting up over 5,000 yards and a 2:1 TD-INT ratio. purpleJOURNAL Podcast co-host Luke Braun very eloquently explained his dislike for this move in an article titled “Kirk Cousins is a Bad Idea” as well as on the show, and he mentioned that Kirk Cousins is bad at a lot of the things that the Vikings are also bad at, namely in that he makes a lot of crazy “YOLO” throws when under-pressure. Compared to someone like Case Keenum, who made a lot of his bread and butter earlier in this past season by escaping pressures and extending plays, you’d think that the Vikings would like someone like that again. However, while I haven’t seen the tape, the idea that Cousins is a turnover machine while under pressure doesn’t seem to stand up to his stat-line, as he’s pretty consistently had a 2-to-1 ratio of TD’s to Interceptions. As well. I also believe that the Vikings are a draft pick or two away from having a good-to-great offensive line and with all indications being that this upcoming draft is a pretty offensive line (namely in the guard spot) heavy draft and you can get at least a little less concerned about Cousins’ “issues” under pressure.
Another idea is that Cousins really isn’t that much better than what the Vikings had at the position this year, and that idea makes a lot of assumptions about those quarterbacks and the upcoming season. From the outside, the Vikings have three options, according to Sascha Paruk from mytopsportsbooks.com, (Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford) but none are under contract. Keenum is the slight favorite to begin 2018 as the starter, given that he just led Minnesota to its best season since 2009. But Bridgewater is four years younger (25) and, as a former first-round pick, arguably has the higher ceiling. It would not be overly surprising if management opted to sign “Teddy Two Gloves” instead of Keenum, even though Bridgewater is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of two years. The eternally injured Bradford is the only longshot in this race.
Surprisingly, those in the know (like Joe Oberle of TheSportsPost.com) thinks that it’s actually Sam Bradford that has the leg-up in the race for the Vikings starter next season. However, it’s been more recently stated by people like Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune that the worst fears that we had about Bradford this season are true and that he does have a chronic and debilitating knee issue that’ll make it nearly impossible for the already injury prone QB to make it a full sixteen games next year or any year after that. I’ve always been a big Bradford guy, because I’m more of a fan of pocket passing (especially with the talent that the Vikings have on offense) than of a scrambling QB with weaker field vision or a weaker arm. So, the idea of bringing in a younger, more mobile version of Bradford is obviously appealing to someone like me, especially one who has shown the ability to make it through a full season for most of his career and put up stats that Bradford never was able to while doing so. That does mean, though, that other teams are seeing the same thing and that the market for Cousins could get out of control from a price perspective, fans of the Cousins move are already essentially asking their followers on Twitter or Facebook which Vikings defender(s) they’d be willing to part with to cover the additional $6-$10 (or more) million per year that Cousins would cost the franchise (over a franchise tag for Keenum or a longer term deal for the question marks that are both Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater). In a perfect world Cousins would take less money for a shot at joining something special, but that doesn’t seem to be the way the league works so he very well could end up on a team like Cleveland or even Denver (who is desperate for a quarterback) and that that cost could just be too much for Rick Spielman and company.
However, if the Vikings could bring in Cousins instead of keeping one of the three quarterbacks that they had on roster in 2017 but it means that they’ll have to part with someone like Anthony Barr on defense, I have to again ask whether or not people believe that the Vikings can go all the way with Teddy Bridgewater (or Case Keenum) and this defense next season or the year after. Clearly, the Vikings made it really far with decent quarterback play for most of this season, but the Eagles are only going to be stronger next year and I feel like I’m at the point in my life as a Vikings fan and writer where the team needs to do something drastic. Not drastic for the sake of being drastic, but drastic in the sense that they could lock in a quarterback who is under 30 and has had over 4,000 yards passing each of his last three seasons, with that great TD to INT ratio I’ve brought up a few times. Drastic in terms of attempting to put an offense on the field that is as dominant as the defense that the Vikings had for most of last season, dominant. The Vikings have a defensive mastermind in Mike Zimmer and I feel like they’d be able to get further along in attempting to replace Barr or another player on defense through free agency and the draft than they would signing Bradford and finding a young quarterback to develop (or Keenum, or Bridgewater) and thus making up the difference that way. Considering that Bridgewater has said he expects to start in 2018 and the question mark around his knee as well, I really think that this question boils down to going for Cousins or franchising Keenum, I really do.
You really don’t want to put too much stock into one game, but considering that the last game that Cousins played against the Eagles was a game in which he threw for over 300 yards, three touchdowns and one interception (it was a loss), it’s pretty exciting to think about what the Vikings could do with a powerhouse offense to match their powerhouse defense. Sure, they’d be weaker on paper without someone like Barr, who has been up and down in his past couple seasons (although all indications are that he rebounded this past season after an injury (and effort issue) plagued season the year prior), but again the net positive between bringing in someone who very well could become a top-5 quarterback in the league considering the weapons that would be at his disposal as a Viking, seems to point towards the Cousins-lead Vikings being the team that could actually get over the “hump” people on our Facebook brought up in response to Braun’s piece about Cousins.
I do believe that this Vikings team is onto something special, or near-special and bought into the whole “Bring it Home” mantra this season. However, the NFC isn’t going to get any easier next season, with all of the returned or suspended players coming back like Aaron Rodgers, Ezekiel Elliot, etc. So, if the Vikings want to actually build on their 13-3 season and continue to make a push for the Super Bowl, then the smartest move would be to sign Cousins, who I do believe would accomplish those things for not a whole lot more than the Vikings will end up paying one of the other three QB’s in the first place (comparatively). While I could be wrong, the combination of a top offense and a top defense would make the Vikings the scariest team in the NFC North and arguably the NFC, even with Carson Wentz returning from his ACL tear (I’m also factoring in all the extra pieces Spielman would be able to add in free agency and the draft). As Vikings fans we definitely deserve a team that puts everything on the table after all these years of support and stadium building, so I’m hoping that somehow this’ll work out as I don’t have a lot of faith that they’ll be anything more than a playoff team otherwise and it’s just time that they won a championship.