Through six games, the Minnesota Vikings are in disarray. While there are myriad issues with Mike Zimmer’s squad, it all starts with their $66 million man. Kirk Cousins’ play this season can be described using many colorful words, including some that aren’t very family friendly, but the one to use here is unprecedented.
With a touchdown to interception ratio of 11 to 10, Cousins is well on his way to matching Jameis Winston’s 2019 30-30 season. On top of that, he’s currently posting a QBR of 47.0 (28th in the league) even though he’s throwing to two of the top-graded wide receivers in the league, according to Pro Football Focus: Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen (90.8 and 88.9, respectively).
Cousins is in a results-oriented business, and he can’t hide behind a playoff win in the Superdome any longer. Fans are understandably frustrated, and the natural reaction is to ask for Cousins’ head. Unfortunately, cutting ties with a guy who you paid several hundred beat up vans worth of cash to is not simple. Luckily, I have many seasons worth of experience as a general manager in Madden, and I am willing to take on the task.
Option 1: Release Kirk Cousins
Releasing Cousins would be a quick and immediate solution to getting rid of the Vikings signal caller. It’d leave Minnesota with Sean Mannion as the starter, and he hasn’t proven to be a savior waiting in the wings. But that’s not the biggest problem that the Vikings would be facing. Rather, it’d be the nightmare of a cap situation that releasing Cousins would cause.
After handing him an extension last summer, Minnesota owes Cousins $96 million over the course of the next three seasons — some of which has been paid for, some has not. Not only that, but since it is well past June 1, releasing Cousins would create $42 million in dead cap this season and $31 million next season. That means that the Vikings are paying that money regardless if Cousins is on the roster or not.
Not only would it suck to pay a guy that much money when he’s not on the team, but it would make it nearly impossible to go out and get a viable starter. So as much as Vikings fans might not want to hear it, releasing Cousins isn’t much of an option.
Option 2: Trade Kirk Cousins
This is where things start to become a little more realistic. As poor as Cousins has played this season, Spielman can still pitch him as that guy who was one of the best quarterbacks in football for the second half of 2019. Realistically, the Vikings would have to eat some of that guaranteed money to get a deal done. But there are a few places around the league that could be interested in Cousins’ services.
San Francisco 49ers
Sending Cousins to the Bay Area would reunite him with his former Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Not only that, but Shanahan has gone on the record many times regarding his admiration for Cousins.
The reigning NFC champions have not gotten off to the hottest start this season, and their current starter Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been anything to write home about. While he doesn’t post interception numbers like Cousins, he also rarely shows glimpses of excellence. Garoppolo is the definition of a game manager, and with the defense not looking as dominant as last season, the Niners may need a bit more than that.
San Francisco as a trade partner makes sense, but it also only works in one scenario: If the two teams swapped quarterbacks. Since Cousins and Garoppolo have similar cap hits, it could work, but neither team has much cap space to work with at all. The Vikings would then have to decide if Garoppolo would even make things better.
But then again, he probably couldn’t make things worse.
Another option would be to send Cousins back to the NFC East. America’s team is now running with the Red Rocket at the helm, and let’s be honest, that doesn’t excite anyone. Surprisingly the Cowboys have $23 million in cap space this year, so money wouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Dallas is also fighting for a playoff spot, and although Cousins is hardly synonymous with being clutch, he’s a much better playoff quarterback than Andy Dalton. Acquiring Cousins could create some cap problems down the line for Dallas, but if we know anything about Jerry Jones it’s that he is constantly in win-now mode.
The Vikings likely wouldn’t get much in return for sending Cousins down to the Lone Star State. Minnesota could maybe get a third-round pick at the most, which isn’t a ton of draft compensation. What the Vikings would get, however, is the opportunity to move on from the Kirk Cousins Era.
This one is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. Cousins had his best career season under Kevin Stefanski, who is the current head coach of the Browns. A reunion could be mutually beneficial, too, as Cleveland has very similar offensive personnel to the 2019 Vikings. They have an elite running game, two elite wide receivers, two talented tight ends and a better offensive line than Minnesota did in 2019.
The tough part with trading Cousins is the money, but that wouldn’t be an issue here as Cleveland has the most cap space in the league at $31 million. Baker Mayfield has been very inconsistent, and the rest of the Browns roster seems like it is playoff ready, so I wouldn’t be shocked if Cleveland made a midseason move like this.
This trade could look very similar to the Cowboys deal, with Minnesota receiving some sort of mid- to low-tier draft compensation. But the more interesting option would be if Minnesota did a quarterback swap with the Browns. This would give the Vikings a season and a half of Mayfield to see if he’s legit or not with low financial burden.
Moving Cousins is not going to be an easy feat whatsoever. Every other team in the league is seeing the same thing we are on Sundays: Kirk collapsing. With that being said, it’s also not impossible, and ripping off the Band-Aid could allow Minnesota to build towards the future.