Let’s be clear: When the Minnesota Vikings kick off the 2021 season, there’s a darn good chance Kirk Cousins will be the quarterback. That outlook hasn’t changed since they closed out their regular season with a scrappy, meaningless win against another lousy Detroit Lions team. Nor has it changed since the start of February when those same Lions dealt Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Jared Goff and a handful of draft picks. However, that trade lit the fuse on what is clearly becoming the biggest story of the NFL offseason: The game of musical chairs at the quarterback position.
And that is precisely why, even though the odds favor Cousins remaining with the Vikings in 2021, we need to keep revisiting this storyline. It’s simply too tantalizing to pass up a circus of this magnitude, one with the potential to impact, either directly or indirectly, nearly every NFL team and even usurp the NFL Draft in the offseason headlines. The Vikes could become entwined in the proceedings at any point. Suggesting that they should get involved is a very defensible position.
Therefore, if you thought for one minute your friendly crew of Vikings content providers here at ZoneCoverage.com wasn’t going to aggressively hyper-analyze every twist and turn of this burgeoning quarterback melodrama with impunity, you haven’t been paying attention. I mean, if you seriously thought we weren’t going to breathlessly react to every ripple of news that has even a tiny chance of affecting the most expensive player at the most important position on the most popular sports team in the market in the most popular sport in the country, then what are we even doing here?
Of course, we are.
Let’s quickly get up to speed. Since the Stafford-Goff deal went down, the Aaron Rodgers trade speculation has died down a bit — although he did get engaged. So congrats on that (and your MVP), Aaron. In place of the Rodgers rumors, Russell Wilson trade talk became a thing, and teams are reportedly hammering the Seattle Seahawks with interest. Why wouldn’t they? A Wilson trade would be seismic in its impact. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson remains insistent on being traded – a possibility that seemingly swelled in the aftermath of J.J. Watt’s release by the Houston Texans.
And those are just the trade topics involving top-five NFL quarterbacks. The scope of this changing quarterback landscape is massive.
In case you were unplugged — off the grid in Cancun or something —and you missed the latest quarterback deal, the Indianapolis Colts acquired Carson Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday in a highly anticipated move that constituted the next major quarterback domino. Thus, the Colts have their replacement for the retired Philip Rivers, but there are still numerous other hot questions involving quarterback situations percolating across the league.
- In NFC North news, the Chicago Bears missed out on Wentz, so they’re still in the market for an upgrade from Mitchell Trubisky and/or Nick Foles. They have to do something. Really, they do.
- Reports also started popping up again on Thursday that the Denver Broncos are definitely in the market for a quarterback. The Broncos have been mentioned prominently as a possible destination for Watson, but don’t forget the dots can be swiftly connected on a trade that would send Cousins to Denver, who poached new general manager George Paton from the Vikings in January. This one has legs because the new GM is going to want to put his imprint on the team, starting at quarterback. The Broncos were also said to be in on both the Stafford and Wentz sweepstakes. They’re going to make a move, and it will likely be a big one.
- The Miami Dolphins are another team reportedly testing the waters of the quarterback free-for-all this offseason. South Beach has specifically been mentioned as another possible destination for Watson. The Dolphins have the assets to swing a big trade and, in related news, Watson was pictured earlier this week in Miami hanging out with a few Dolphins players.
- There’s no guarantee that Ben Roethlisberger will be back with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021. Their GM hasn’t publicly committed to Big Ben and his $41.2 million cap hit, making you wonder if a decision has already been made behind the Steel Curtain. Pittsburgh has enormous salary cap issues, but an immediate future with the likes of Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins at quarterback is tough to fathom.
- Despite “reports” that turned out to be merely a prediction that the Carolina Panthers were absolutely going hard after Watson, they actually are truly poised to make a move at quarterback. It could mean doing so in the draft, but in the end, it also means Teddy Bridgewater could be on the move again, and some have been doing their darndest to draw up scenarios that bring him back to Minnesota.
- The odds are good in Las Vegas that the Raiders will hold on to Derek Carr, but that hasn’t stopped him from being the center of repeated speculation. Teams have been reportedly calling to check in on Carr’s availability – along with that of his backup, Marcus Mariota. Stay tuned.
- It also seems inevitable that the New York Jets will be closing the book on the uneventful Sam Darnold era. There are personnel people who still swear Darnold is worth taking a flier on, so a trade seems like it’s just a matter of time. Could he be headed to the Bears?
- The Atlanta Falcons are rumored to be at least considering turning the page on Matt Ryan, most likely by bringing in someone via the draft or free agency. In other words, much like the Vikings’ situation with Cousins, a Ryan trade isn’t out of the question.
- And of course, the San Francisco 49ers come up in just about every trade rumor. The Cousins reunion with Kyle Shanahan – not unlike the Wentz reunion this week with Frank Reich – is an easy storyline and one that won’t go away. With every quarterback transaction that doesn’t include the Niners, the possibility of Rick Spielman fielding serious inquiries from them inches closer to reality. Then again, who says the two sides haven’t already talked? No, that’s nothing more than juicy conjecture. What seems certain, despite what is being said publicly, is that San Francisco would like to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo. In fact, the Wentz trade news stoked the Watson rumor mill, and the 49ers are being promoted all across the Twitter-verse as a landing spot.
All of these moving parts bring to mind the inevitable scene in every whodunit murder mystery. You know the one — the detective in a dark room littered with empty bottles, overflowing ashtrays, boxes of files, and a wall adorned with pinned notes, names, and photos with strings crisscrossing it in every direction. Possible links everywhere. I’m not saying such a wall exists in my home office with the photos of quarterbacks, printed-out tweets, and NFL logos. But I’m not saying it doesn’t exist either.
Maybe that’s why NFL fans love this stuff so much. Waiting on tenterhooks for the next rumor, report, or transaction is just good, clean fun for the whole family – especially when all these quarterbacks are involved. Who doesn’t dig a good mystery?
There’s little mystery left surrounding any potential of the Vikings being a landing spot for Watson. It’s not happening. Darren “Doogie” Wolfson of KSTP has been knocking that speculation down for weeks, saying flatly there’s no chance Watson would waive his no-trade clause to go to the Vikings. Doogie is as plugged in as anyone and outworks everyone to get scoops. If he says it’s not happening, you can bank on it not happening.
Where does that leave the Vikings in the midst of this quarterback carousel?
Most likely still on the outside looking in. Remember, the Cousins rumors have been primarily based on the Shanahan love connection, the link to Paton in Denver, and Cousins’ untenable contract with a $45 million cap hit coming up in 2022. Solid reporting regarding trade talks or even the Vikings’ interest in moving Cousins just doesn’t exist… yet.
But with every quarterback move, a team still desperate to make a change at signal-caller gets that much more desperate to pull the trigger on something.
Furthermore, there’s still time.
The NFL league year starts on March 17 at 4:00 PM ET – right about the time St. Patrick’s Day revelers will be making the crucial decision on whether to push through and keep drinking all night or pack it in and switch over to water. Between now and then, a lot of the quarterbacks mentioned above will know a lot more about where they’ll be playing in 2021. And soon thereafter — certainly by the time the NFL Draft rolls around at the end of April — every team is going to want to have definitive quarterback plans in place, even if it means drafting one. That includes your Vikings.
The dominoes have just started falling, and we plan to be here for all of them. Don’t change the channel.