We’re one week away from NFL Free Agency and the Minnesota Vikings (and Kirk Cousins) are the talk of the town. To start this off, let’s break down what we’ve heard:
- February 2nd – Vikings Radio Announcer, Paul Allen:
- ” The Vikings are #1 with a bullet on his [Cousins] preference list. If offers are similar he’s taking the Vikings.”
- **February 2nd – February 28th** – Multiple reports that teams around league believe the Vikings will sign Kirk Cousins
- February 28th – Vikings GM, Rick Spielman (what else is he supposed to say?)
- “Just to make it clear, there have been no decisions made – I know it’s been a thousand reports out there on how we’re going to move forward. We will continue to evolve this process”
- March 1st – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer (providing us a little more color)
- “Can Sam stay healthy? Is Teddy what he was? Is Case the guy he was last year or was two years ago? That’s really the $64,000 question with us….. One of the reasons we’ve won 40 games over 4 years is because we have a good team. We need to continue to strengthen our ‘strength’ (defense), and keep adding to offense.”
- “I love Teddy. I’ve said that before. He is a competitor; he’s got the heart of a Lion,” Zimmer said Thursday. “I’m hopeful for Teddy. I hope he has an outstanding career and I hope that it’s with me.”
- **March 1st-March 7th** – Reports surface the Vikings have offered Cousins Vikings (in what would be a violation of tampering rules) have offered cousins a 3-year $91 million contract fully guaranteed.
- March 7th – NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero“There’s mutual interest between the Vikings and Kirk Cousins, but financials will be big. No offers, no decisions yet.”
- March 7th – Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio “If it’s a 3-year deal I don’t think it’s going to be $30 million a year… He’ll be hard-pressed to get north of 27″
After looking through all of that- which does say a whole lot of nothing – there is enough that I think we can start to assume a few things.
- Cousins is #1. Kirk Cousins is the Vikings number one choice, and that would be confirmed if we get to March 14th without a QB being signed. I think a lot of these reports, especially with the numbers being thrown around, are ridiculous, but they’re not coming out of thin-air. The Vikings could sign any of their in-house QBs before free agency starts, and it doesn’t appear they are going to do so. They declined to franchise Case Keenum and are rolling the dice that they can sign their number one option, which is Cousins. WITH THAT SAID – If they go for Cousins and miss, meanwhile they neglect Teddy, Case, Sam, there’s a chance (a small one) they end up with nothing. They need to be careful, and I don’t want to think about that happening so let’s move on…
- Cousins vs Teddy? Zimmer will always love Teddy. I think in an ideal world, he can get himself (and Spielman) to trust that Teddy’s knee is okay and they can sign a higher end back-up (McCarron? McCown? Bradford….) that can run the offense if Teddy went down again, similar to Keenum last-year. A lot of Zimmer wants to reserve the money to keep his defense in tact, and there’s definite fear within Zimmer to let Teddy go and see him succeed elsewhere while he’s stuck with an overpaid Kirk Cousins. The bottom line is, based off the above, I’d be surprised if Teddy or Cousins weren’t under center Week 1 for the Vikes next year.
- Keenum Done? Wondering aloud if Case is a one-year wonder was a peculiar move by Zimmer. I think a lot of what he said was calculated, and it doesn’t bode well for Case’s future in Minnesota. I think Zimmer believes we saw the best version of Keenum. He was tremendous, but it was in what I think was a flawed league year (Bortles-Foles-Keenum in the final 4 is not going to happen every year). I don’t think he’s convinced Case is the guy to take this team to the Super Bowl consistently, especially without the continuity of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
And lastly, what do I want to happen?
The short answer is Kirk or Teddy, but whoever gets chosen, I’ll have reservations. I don’t know. I think if I could write a fairy-tale ending, Teddy is the QB, his knee is 100%, and the Vikings win the Super Bowl on a last second touchdown where he breaks the ankles of the defense. He’s a fan favorite and it’s hard to imagine him succeeding for another franchise. I wish I could have the confidence that he wouldn’t get hurt again. With that said, I think it’s nearly impossible for the Vikings to put that trust in Teddy. Even if you’re able to land the top back up, probably AJ McCarron, to compete for the job with Teddy, that’s a hard sell to fans and you’re entering the season with another question mark at quarterback while the other 52 players contribute to the most well-rounded roster in the NFL.
I don’t think I’d be too excited about Cousins, either (until it happens and I freak out, declaring the Vikes Super Bowl 53 champs). I see a stat one day that compares him to Drew Brees going from San Diego to New Orleans (Yes! Please give me that guy!). The next day, I see him picked apart for his lack of pocket presence (No! Give me Case and his magical pocket movement). The one thing I think Cousins can do, that the Vikings haven’t had since Favre, is win a shootout. Similarly, I also think he has shown that when you’re down by two scores, he has the stuff to come back. Those are situations that I’d be skeptical at best for Case, and Teddy the jury is still out on who he is as a QB (another reason he presents risk).
In the end, this next week presents a franchise defining decision, and it’s one the Vikings can’t afford to get wrong. The most excited I’d be is if they committed to Teddy but I’d be equally nervous. Captain Kirk would put me most at ease, confirming that the Vikes are set for the next five years at QB, and that’s probably the same idea that Spielman has. He can get over the money if he finds his guy. He has created one of the best rosters in the NFL and he’s not ready to risk it on Teddy’s potential, Teddy’s knee or Case’s lack of track record (Bradford’s simply a last resort.) I think that’s how Spielman sees the situation, and he’s going to do what he can to lock-in the quarterback that carries the least risk, and thus the most likely one to cement the Vikings as Super Bowl Contenders for the next five years.