Even though Alex Smith won 42 games and a playoff game over four seasons as the starting quarterback, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs shocked the NFL when they decided to move up 17 spots in the 2017 NFL Draft to select a quarterback who was full of question marks.
“How many Big 12 quarterbacks have had success in NFL?!”
“Has Texas Tech’s Air Raid system ever produced an NFL quarterback?!”
“Have you seen his mechanics?!”
“What about his careless decision-making?!”
Then-general manager John Dorsey knew that while Smith was an above-average quarterback capable of winning the division and possibly a playoff game, his team had to upgrade at the most important position in all of sports to realistically contend for championships. Even though their incumbent starting quarterback still had two years remaining on his contract (sound familiar?), the Chiefs’ brass decided to trade up for Smith’s successor.
After learning from and backing up Smith throughout his entire rookie year, Patrick Mahomes ascended to the starting role for the 2018 season and Smith was traded to Washington. As we all know by now, it was clearly the correct decision and altered the outlook of the franchise for the next decade-plus.
Given that the Minnesota Vikings have won more than eight games on only one occasion in three seasons with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, the writing is on the wall for where this ball club’s ceiling is. Just like Kansas City did following the 2016 season, it’s high time the Vikings start putting a plan in place that can not only provide sustainability at the quarterback position, but can also take this team to the next level.
Some Vikings fans are content with winning a meaningless game against the Green Bay Packers just to troll their Wisconsin friends for a Monday before our division rival competes for championships while we spend the rest of our season worrying about draft position. But the goal should always be to build a roster that can make an honest run at the Lombardi trophy. And in order to do that, you have to be set at quarterback.
The desire to do exactly that was on full display following the 2017 season when the Vikings thought they were backing up the Brinks truck for a signal-caller who could finally help take this team over the hump. And after three years with a 26-22-1 record (including playoffs) as a starter, we have a pretty good understanding that Cousins won’t be the catalyst that brings the Vikings to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1977.
Exit stage left, Kirky. Enter Marshall, Minn. native and former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
Before I go any further, I’m not saying that Lance is going to be Mahomes 2.0. I’m simply making the recent connection of a franchise deciding to trade up in the draft in order to upgrade on their current above-average quarterback who had multiple years remaining on his contract.
Like every other quarterback that wasn’t named John Elway, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck or Trevor Lawrence, Lance comes with a few question marks. Most of which are built around the level of competition that he faced while playing in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’ve dissected weeks of tape over-analyzing all of Lance’s strengths and weaknesses. By all accounts, Lance is a supremely talented dual-threat quarterback who would likely benefit from having a year as a backup to get acclimated to Sundays.
What I can tell you with a certain level of conviction, however, is this: The Vikings will never compete for a Super Bowl with Cousins at quarterback. And if the objective is not to flirt with .500 football (hi, Jeff Fisher), but to give this team a chance at winning its first-ever Super Bowl, the succession planning needs to start right now with this year’s draft. As it stands now, the Vikings are close enough at 14 to move up a few spots to select Lance if he’s still on the board after the first three picks.
Now, I know what most of you are thinking: How in the world will the Vikings be able to get off Cousins’ contract?
If this past offseason has taught us anything, it’s that once-upon-a-time immovable contracts like Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are now fair game. Also, it should go without saying that Cousins is a significantly better quarterback than both Wentz and Goff. Secondly, Cousins’ contract isn’t really that difficult for the Vikings to get out of following the 2021 season.
If the Vikings are able to trade Cousins prior to the 2022 season, it will only incur a $10 million dead cap figure, while providing the Vikings with $35 million in cap relief, per Spotrac and Over The Cap.
And make no mistake about it, if other teams are willing to trade for Wentz and Goff, I can assure you that the Vikings will have little to no problem with finding a dance partner for Cousins’ services. Right now, you can make the argument that there are at least 10 teams in the NFL that would make for a realistic landing spot for Cousins following the 2021 season.
Those teams are:
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger is a dinosaur and likely retires following this season
- Houston Texans – Deshaun Watson has demanded a trade and is facing serious legal allegations
- Denver Broncos – Drew Lock and his career 79.1 passer rating ain’t it
- New England Patriots – Cam Newton‘s injuries have caught up to him
- Las Vegas Raiders – Vegas can cut Derek Carr without any cap ramifications following the ’21 season
- Carolina Panthers – Upon his arrival, Matt Rhule is desperate for a quarterback after signing Teddy Bridgewater and trading for Sam Darnold
- New Orleans Saints – Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston are currently on cost-effective one-year deals for this season
- Philadelphia Eagles – If Jalen Hurts doesn’t seize the opportunity, this proud franchise will make a change
- Washington Football Team – Taylor Heinicke and Ryan Fitzpatrick are not the long term solution here
- Chicago Bears – Andy Dalton is only on a one-year contract
Granted, that list will probably change following the upcoming NFL Draft at the end of the month, but you get the point. And if we’ve learned anything over the past year, the NFL quarterback marketplace is ever-changing. This Cousins contract isn’t nearly as daunting as some of you want to think it is, especially when you consider that there will be plenty of teams that will be looking to upgrade their quarterback room following this upcoming season.
For a fanbase that is yearning for a shot of life, can you think of a better way to galvanize football fans across this state than by bringing one of our own home to be the next quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings?
Just like we saw with the Chiefs only four years ago, fortune favors the bold. Pick up the phone, Rick. It’s time to trade up for Trey.