The Minnesota Vikings already have their Field of Dreams. It was christened by the Minneapolis Miracle but is haunted by echoes of Justin Jefferson demanding that Kirk Cousins throw him the ball. Until this year, U.S. Bank Stadium housed a team that had a stalwart defense but an outmoded offense quarterbacked by an expensive signal-caller who has come up short in big moments. They’re playing a B-movie in a state-of-the-art theatre. The Producers in the Sydney Opera House.
But the Vikings can solve this issue. Yes, they have a defense-oriented, run-first team. Sure, Cousins is due Patrick Mahomes money in two years. Yet there is a solution.
Build an offensive line, and a quarterback will come.
Before Deshaun Watson was inundated with lawsuits from massage therapists alleging misconduct, he was seen as the quarterback who was going to turn the NFL into the NBA. No, the players weren’t ditching the pigskin to push pumpkins on Sunday. Instead, in a league where players are tethered to the team that drafts them by restricted free agency and the franchise tag, a quarterback whose former coach/GM traded his best receiver for a washed-up running back (and which coach was then replaced by the team chaplain) could force his way out.
Meanwhile, 2,300 miles away in Seattle, Russell Wilson’s agent had passive-aggressively leaked a list of four destinations to the media. The master of his domain had gone on Dan Patrick’s national radio show and said he was tired of being pounded into submission by opposing linemen and was looking for relief. He never formally requested a trade. He simply admitted his eyes were wandering a bit.
Wilson was entranced by the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas. Tempted by the culture, cuisine, and debauchery of New Orleans. Knew everything was bigger in Dallas. And, uh, also put Chicago on his list.
Even if Wilson returns to the Seattle Seahawks and the Houston Texans hold Watson hostage, the NFL is changing, and the Vikings should get out ahead of it.
Watson is entering the second year of a contract extension that he signed through 2026 but has a potential out in 2024. Wilson, 33, is signed through 2023 but can get out of his contract next year. Both may end up staying put.
The Texans say they are not taking calls on Watson, and they could choose to keep him in Houston for the entirety of his contract and franchise-tag him three times. It would be an odd move. They would essentially be holding him hostage out of principle. They probably know that he will likely give in and play in that scenario, even if it’s an uncomfortable situation for both the player and the organization.
There’s less tension in Seattle, where Wilson has already won a Super Bowl and is considered part of the fabric of the community. He won the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award last season and owns part of the soccer team. The Seahawks are one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and they are expected to be competitive next year. Unlike Watson, his best option may be to stick around.
But eventually, a star quarterback is going to break free.
The Los Angeles Rams traded six picks — including two first-rounders — to the Tennessee Titans in 2016 to select Jared Goff, and he took them to a Super Bowl two years later. Yet they didn’t hesitate to trade him, along with two first-round picks, to the Detroit Lions when they felt Matt Stafford would be an upgrade.
Similarly, the Philadelphia Eagles took Carson Wentz No. 2 overall in that draft, and he started most of their Super Bowl-winning season in 2017. But it was Nick Foles who finished the job, and Wentz’s play has declined since. He ceded the starting job to Jalen Hurts last year and was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for two picks this offseason.
Aaron Rodgers suggested that his days with the Green Bay Packers may be numbered after losing in the NFC Championship, and they haven’t restricted his contract this offseason. If things go haywire for them this year, they could ditch their current core and rebuild around Jordan Love. Rodgers always has Jeopardy! to fall back on.
Tom Brady seemed like he was going to retire with the New England Patriots. But he got fed up with his lack of weapons due to years of poor drafting and chose to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because they had a stout defense, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and a coach who would let him air it out. Now he’s shovel-passing the Lombardi Trophy across the open sea to his depth tight end.
The situation was perfect, and he turned the NFL’s losing-est franchise into champions last year.
Look at Wilson’s list for a second:
Drew Brees became increasingly limited in his final few years before retiring this offseason, yet the New Orleans Saints were always in it because they’re a well-constructed team with an established coach.
The Chicago Bears have one of the best defenses in the league and a coach who won a divisional championship with Mitch Trubisky under center.
And the Las Vegas Raiders went 8-8 and beat the Kansas City Chiefs with Derek Carr last year. Imagine if they had Russ under center.
Watson hasn’t asked to go anywhere specifically, he just wants out.
If Wilson or Watson force their way out, the floodgates will open. Wilson is the third QB in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns in four straight seasons. Watson is one of the best signal-callers in the league and is about to enter his prime. If they can wrangle their way out of town, anybody can. And Minnesota should position themselves to pounce on the next guy who does.
The Vikings have rebuilt their defense. They have ownership that is willing to spend on the team, and they have a state-of-the-art stadium funded in part by cigarettes and pull-tabs. If they beef up the O-line, they’ll find themselves on a star quarterback’s list someday.