Kirk Cousins’ time with the Minnesota Vikings has largely been disappointing. They signed him after the 2017 season to help push a team that lost in the conference championship game to the Super Bowl. The 2023 season is Cousins’ sixth with the Vikings. They have won only one playoff game in two appearances.
His overall passing numbers have been good, but the Vikings have been a middle-of-the-pack team since his arrival — except for last-season’s rash of one-score victories. This season appeared headed for a typical Vikings’ finish in which their record hovers around .500, but Cousins’ will likely not take the field again in 2023, following a 24-10 win against the Green Bay Packers.
He suffered a dreaded non-contact injury to his Achilles. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that Cousins’ Achilles injury is believed to be a rupture. He will undergo an MRI on Monday to confirm the extent of the injury. The only starts that Cousins has ever missed were due to COVID in 2021, and he was rested the final game of the 2019 season.
The Vikings’ Week 8 victory moves their record to 4-4 on the season, and they are currently holding onto the last playoff spot in the NFC. Their backup is 25-year-old rookie Jaren Hall, a fifth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
With the Tuesday trade deadline fast approaching, the Vikings now have no easy answers on how to approach it. Throughout this season, NFL analysts have suggested that a trade should be worked out for Cousins. He has a no-trade clause in his expiring contract, but the right situation should have been able to convince him to waive it. The New York Jets would have been a great spot. He would be a one-year rental if they expect to start Aaron Rodgers in 2024.
A trade for Cousins would have cost the Jets a lot of assets for less than a full-season of work, but by adding Cousins to their talented roster instead of trotting out Zach Wilson, they could have contended for a Super Bowl. That move is now out of the question, if the Vikings were even seriously considering it. Also, as a deadline move, it may not have made the Vikings bad enough for one of the top QBs in the 2024 NFL Draft.
They are .500, with a remaining schedule that is not that difficult. Their next two games are on the road against the Atlanta Falcons, and at home against the New Orleans Saints. Both teams have shown talent this season, but little consistency and been forced to work around less than ideal performances at starting quarterback.
The Vikings could split those two, and leave them with the Cincinnati Bengals and two matchups against the Detroit Lions as the only games against playoff-caliber teams left on the schedule. They may not lose enough games to be able to draft one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.
If they choose not to sign Cousins to even a short extension in the spring, they will be in danger of two lost seasons. Two seasons well under .500, and no chance at truly refreshing the quarterback position until 2025 — a much worse projected quarterback class.
Injuries are always unfortunate and unpredictable, but the Vikings may have chalked up two seasons as a loss long before Cousins went down at Lambeau Field. By not working on a deal to trade Cousins’ expiring contract they left the team too competitive for half of the season. Now their best option might be another two years of Cousins at $30-plus million per, and see if they can finally build a roster around him that can be one of the best in the league without a historic success in one-score games.
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