In late January it was announced that the Kansas City Chiefs would be trading their quarterback, Alex Smith, to the Washington Redskins. Smith would be getting the big money contract that their current quarterback, Kirk Cousins, was unable to receive over years of being an above-average quarterback. As a result, chances are he will soon be a free agent.
The fact that Cousins may be available should be enough to spark some excitement in Vikings fans. But add that to the fact that multiple sources have reported Minnesota as the top team on Cousins’ wishlist and, in my mind, there should be a frenzy. Only questions are can Minnesota do it and will they do it?
The answers are yes and they should.
The Vikings and the Titans are the only two playoff teams who are in the top-10 for salary cap space this upcoming off-season. That means Minnesota has a lot of money to work with; $57.2 million, to be exact. That is more than enough to fit Kirk Cousins’ $27-$30 million contract in for the first year. But 2019 is when it would start to get tricky.
The following key players will have their contracts expire in 2019, assuming Minnesota does not work out a deal with them beforehand. Here is what they are estimated to receive if the Vikings were to go that route:
WR Stefon Diggs – 5-year/$35M ($7M/year)
LB Eric Kendricks – 4-year/$35M ($8.75M/year)
LB Anthony Barr – 5-year/45M ($9M/year)
DE Danielle Hunter – 4-year/$55M ($13.75M/year)
Looking at the numbers, it does not look good. But with players like Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes signing for less than their market value, it is possible some of these players do the same. But again, these would most likely take place in 2019 if Cousins signed. That means the Vikings would have the cap space not used this off-season along with whoever they decide to let walk after the 2019 season. Which means they will most likely have enough money to sign all of these players back along with getting Cousins.
Side note: if push comes to shove and the Vikings have to release some players or re-structure their deals in 2019 to make space, here are a list of players they can release or have their contracts changed with little-to-no cap penalties. Also, keep in mind that the Vikings currently have an estimated $78 million to play with in 2019, according to OverTheCap.com:
TE Kyle Rudolph (28) – $7.6M cap hit in 2019, no penalty for releasing.
S Andrew Sendejo (30) – $5.5M cap hit in 2019, no penalty for releasing.
HB Latavius Murray (28) – $5.6M cap hit in 2019, $600K penalty for releasing.
OL Mike Remmers (28) – $6.3M cap hit in 2019, $1.8M penalty for releasing.
DE Everson Griffen (30) – $10.2M cap hit in 2019, $1.2M penalty for releasing.
I am definitely not suggesting we release all of these players. But letting some of them walk would not hurt, especially if they go after Cousins. Bottom line is Minnesota has the space to make Cousins their franchise while still getting deals done for key players.
Finally Figuring Out the QB Situation
Take a look at the quarterbacks Minnesota has currently: Sam Bradford looked good in week 1, but his legs are made of glass. Case Keenum played well, but was mainly just a ride-along while the defense took Minnesota to the NFC Championship game. Teddy Bridgewater is a giant question mark. As usual, the uncertainty at quarterback is the only thing holding the team back.
Vikings fans have been through this for years. Quarterback play has always been the problem when a good Minnesota team is finally put together. They have a chance to put an end to the QB question for years to come this offseason.
Cousins has consistently put up solid numbers on average Redskins team. He has thrown for at least 25 touchdowns, 4,000 yards and a completion percentage of at least 63 percent in the three seasons he has started. In that time, he has averaged a rating of 97.6, has never thrown more than 13 interceptions in a season and has not missed a single game. Minnesota would have a franchise quarterback with far fewer question marks attached, especially in the injury department.
Rick Spielman and the Vikings organization has taken plenty of shots over the years. The thought that he would take this one is hardly a reach. If you ask me, why would they not do this? They have the money. And if they do not then their choices are between two injury red flags and a career journeyman. Go with the sure-thing, go get your franchise quarterback, and bring home a ring or two.