Vikings

What the Minnesota Vikings Can Learn From the Carson Wentz Saga

Photo credit: Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports via Indy Star

During the summer of 2020, I suggested that Carson Wentz would join the Minnesota Vikings. Not only that, I suggested that he would become the Vikings’ starter in 2022.

A lot of people didn’t receive my idea well. Some people labeled me as a conspiracy theorist. Others asked why the Philadelphia Eagles would trade Wentz two years after flirting with an MVP Award. But somewhere in the flood of “38-7” tweets that filled my timeline, I was trying to teach a lesson that the Vikings can use with Kirk Cousins.

When it comes to the quarterback position, anything can happen.

When I wrote the article, it seemed preposterous that the Eagles would trade Wentz. After signing a four-year, $128 million contract, he was the cornerstone of the franchise. His 2019 campaign backed it up. He almost led Philadelphia to the playoffs while throwing to practice squad receivers.

Wentz was in the upper echelon of quarterbacks. Then the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts.

The pick was baffling. Why the hell would the Eagles take a quarterback when they already had their guy? Better yet, why would Philadelphia take this quarterback in the second round?

The bottom fell out for Wentz in 2020. After throwing 15 interceptions in 12 games, Doug Pederson benched him in favor of Hurts, and the Eagles traded him in the offseason.

With Wentz out of the picture, the Eagles saved nearly $20 million in cap space. While Hurts didn’t convince everyone he was a franchise quarterback, he did just enough to allow Philadelphia to build a roster that could support him. They accomplished that goal when they made the playoffs this year.

Philadelphia’s plan appeared to burst into flames when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decimated them, 31-15. But the Eagles also have more options than they had two years ago. They could stick with Hurts and continue to build their roster with $17 million in cap space. They could use their draft capital to acquire Deshaun Watson. The possibilities are endless.

That may not have been the case if they stuck with Wentz. Once an immovable asset, the former NDSU star is now on his third team in the past two years. Despite this, teams continue to bring him aboard, hoping they could revert him to the player he was in 2017.

Here’s where the Vikings come into play. Minnesota entered the offseason in a stalemate with Cousins. While Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have said all the right things, they’ve wisely left the door open because there will always be a team willing to take their quarterback off their hands.

Look at this from the Vikings’ perspective. They can keep their options open by refusing to agree to Cousins’ reported $40 million demand. While eating a $45 million cap hit isn’t ideal, the Vikings can get out of the deal after the 2022 season, which could lead them to myriad possibilities.

One of those is the 2023 draft. With Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud leading the way, the Vikings could accumulate draft capital to try and make a move up the board. And I’m not taking into account the one quarterback that always seems to climb the rankings in the season leading up to the draft.

Nobody knew that Joe Burrow would become a superstar before his senior season at LSU. Zach Wilson wasn’t a household name until he started throwing lasers during the 2020 season. Malik Willis has shot up boards after his combine performance. Nobody knows who could become available.

It’s not just to the draft. There were several quarterbacks on Wentz’s level when he was at his apex in 2019. But those same players are filling out change of address cards heading into next season.

Who would have believed that Tom Brady would have landed in Tampa? What were the odds that the Seattle Seahawks would trade Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos? And who saw the Vikings coming one phone call away from making Wentz their starting quarterback?

It’s why Cousins doesn’t want to agree to a deal that would smooth out his cap hit. If he signs with the Vikings, he gives up the leverage that he would have on the open market. What if the Colts are stuck in this same position? Or if Aaron Rodgers rides off into the sunset to focus on peddling conspiracy theories? Or maybe a team that believes it has a Super Bowl window could hand him another fully guaranteed contract?

It makes it clear that both sides realize the importance of keeping their options open. If one team doesn’t like their current option, another one could be right around the corner. That scenario could give the Vikings or Cousins a deal they can’t resist.

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Photo credit: Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports via Indy Star

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