September 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates during the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at US Bank Stadium. Required Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Being a fan of Minnesota Vikings is an emotional rollercoaster. When we lost the first two games, many of us were willing to tear the whole team down, strip down to the studs, so we could rebuild a better house. After the unlikely victory in Seattle, many of us are planning to travel in February. What is the weather like in february in California?
At the center of all this, of course, is Kirk Cousins. It’s no exaggeration to say that his time in a purple uniform has been controversial.
Before leaving Washington, Cousins developed a reputation as a QB who is above average but also incapable of improving. The stats always look nice, but he often fails to improve in the meaningful moments. During three years in Minnesota, Cousins largely lived up to these characteristics.
There’s no question that his numbers have been very sharp since he came to Minnesota. Heck, his advanced stats are impressive too. However, how have we done since Kirk took over? We missed the playoffs in both 2018 and 2020. We came in after the 2019 season; To his credit, Kirk led an impressive OT ride where we defeated the Saints. It was glorious. Our glory was quickly undone in the following week; we were beaten badly by the 49ers.
2021 looks like a critical year for our franchise QB. The trinity of leadership – Kirk Cousins, Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman – all seem to be fighting for their jobs.
Now being 1-2 is no reason to hold a parade. It’s a crappy record, one that suggests our purple friends have a long way to go. However, what is striking about this record is that it can easily go 3-0. You could even argue that Cousins did everything they could to get us to 3-0. The end result is some serious questions about Cousins’ status as the QB1, both this season and beyond.
Currently Cousins charges at $31 million against the cap. There is no arguing that it is a lot of money. The next closest number is Danielle Hunter with over $13 million. Next year it will be even worse. Kirk will enter 2022 with a fully guaranteed $45 million. Cutting him doesn’t bring financial relief. Even with a healthy increase in salary cap room, our Vikings are nearly $6 million over next year’s cap.
Here’s the thing: If Kirk (and I admit I’m talking about a really big “if”) keeps playing like he is, do we really want him gone? The first three weeks of the year have produced some great stats and clutch performance. What more could you want from your QB1?
If his game continues its upward trend—again, a lot depends on that two-letter word—then our best bet is to expand Cousins. Doing so can free up up to $27 million (per OTC).
The trade-off, of course, is more years of Kirk under the center in Minnesota. The only way that makes sense is if he finally shows that he can combine it all for a full season, mixing pairing play with flashy numbers all the time. At 33, Cousins is definitely at the end of his career, but he could reasonably play strong for another 5+ years. Many QBs have played well into their thirties and even their late thirties. Cousins has been able to avoid an injury so far. Assuming the luck of the injury lasts, the health problems should be relatively minor as he ages.
Indeed, the most important factor lies in whether he can replicate his brilliant three matches over a 17-match schedule. If he can, expect Slick Rick and Brilliant Brze to look into an extension for some financial help.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Purple PTSD.