Kirk Cousins has been horrible through two weeks of the 2020 NFL season. The Vikings front office now faces a bleak future at the quarterback position.
The Vikings front office never believed Kirk Cousins was going to be a transcendent quarterback capable of leading them to playoff glory. The plan in Minnesota was always to deploy him as a signal-caller capable of activating the talent around him at a satisfactory level. That plan has gone up in flames for the Vikings front office in 2020.
Calling Cousins’ play through two games “awful” would be an understatement. He’s looked absolutely lost in both of his team’s losses on the young season. The former Pro Bowler has only completed 30 of his 51 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns. The fact that he’s already thrown four interceptions is a huge concern for Mike Zimmer and his offensive coaching staff. It’s also worth noting that a healthy portion of his production in the team’s Week 2 loss to the Colts came in garbage time.
What can the Vikings do immediately?
The ugly truth is that Minnesota’s front office doesn’t have any good decisions to make in the short-term. Sean Mannion is a serviceable backup but he lacks the talent to turn the team around. Unless the Vikings believe there’s a free agent out there who can provide an immediate upgrade they’re going to be stuck with Cousins for the remainder of their 2020 campaign.
Cousins’ contract is a huge problem
The big issue with Cousins is that the Vikings have $41 million committed to their starting quarterback next season. Cutting him is not a financially feasible option. The idea of trading him would cause other GMs around the league to laugh Minnesota out of the room.
That doesn’t mean Minnesota has to sit back and trot Cousins out there as the starter next season. Unfortunately, free agency is not going to be a tonic for the franchise’s quarterback woes. The Vikings already have a ton of money committed to their roster for next season. Adding a new quarterback. on anything other than a minimum deal would cause the front office to completely gut the rest of the roster. That’s not a tenable solution for anyone in Minnesota.
The NFL Draft is the answer
The only possible way for the team to upgrade their quarterback options in 2021 is to work through the draft. Using a first round pick on a promising rookie could accelerate the Vikings’ efforts to pivot away from relying on Cousins.
The big question to ask is just where Minnesota’s first round pick might land. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Cousins continues to play this poorly over a full season. If he does, Minnesota might be in contention to land a top-three selection.
The more likely outcome is that Cousins elevates his play moving forward to some degree. That doesn’t mean he’ll turn into a Pro Bowler again, but he should stop killing any chance the Vikings have at winning games with his putrid play. In the end, Minnesota is more likely to end up as a bad team instead of being one of the worst franchises in the entire league.
So who should the Vikings target?
Neither Trevor Lawrence nor Justin Fields is going to drop out of the top five unless something truly remarkable happens before the draft. That means the Vikings front office can go ahead and cross both young signal-callers off their wish list.
The three guys Vikings fans should be paying attention to are Trey Lance, Kyle Trask and Jamie Newman. Neither projects as a guy who can come in and immediately play a starring role, but each guy has a chance to put immediate pressure on Cousins.
Lance is the player who the Vikings should really be coveting. He’s got a massive arm and enough mobility to make defenses think twice about committing too many men to the blitz.
Trask is arguably the most polished passer of the group. He excels at putting the ball right where receivers want it time after time in Florida’s offense. Don’t rule out the possibility that he could skyrocket up draft boards with a strong season for the Gators.
Newman is the wild card here. NFL experts were anxious to see him ply his wares at Georgia after his standout career at Wake Forest. His decision to opt-out of the season with the Bulldogs will make him a mystery man during the pre-draft process. The Vikings could easily fall in love with his physical tools if he performs well during workouts.
What will the Vikings actually do?
This is bad news for Vikings fans hoping to see Cousins moved on as soon as possible. Minnesota’s most likely course of action is to trust their current quarterback to bounce back and continue to be their starter for the next two seasons. That will require immediate and substantial improvement from him this season, but there’s no reason to think he’s lost the ability to play football in one offseason.
That means the Vikings will likely go into next season with the idea that building around Cousins is the way to propel the franchise forward. That makes adding more weapons for him to play with an offseason priority for the team. Vikings fans can take solace in the fact that those weapons should also help Cousins’ successor achieve success in Minnesota.