Why The Vikings Potentially Signing Cousins Could Be A Great Thing For The Lions
Kirk Cousins’ free agent status has been a huge story around the NFL for the last two years now. The 29 year quarterback is set to hit free agency after throwing for an average of 4392 yards and 27 touchdowns over the last three seasons.
After a breakout campaign in 2015, the Washington Redskins placed a franchise tag on the quarterback, forcing him to play 2016 on a one year deal. After another successful season in 2016, they did it again, forcing him into the same circumstances in 2017.
Now, Kirk Cousins is finally set to hit free agency after the Redskins traded for quarterback Alex Smith. The Minnesota Vikings, one of Detroit’s divisional rivals and winners of the NFC North in 2017, are rumored to be the front runner to sign the quarterback.
According to Spotrac, the Minnesota Vikings have $48,097,861 in cap space this off season. That is more than enough to give Kirk Cousins the +$30 million per year he is asking for. However, if the Vikings were to sign Cousins to a mega deal (as everyone is reporting he will get), it could cause some serious issues for them down the line.
The Vikings do not have any key free agents that they need to re-sign this offseason. They’re free agent class is headlined by quarterback Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater. However, if the Vikings were to sign Cousins, they wouldn’t be interested in bringing back any of these three anyway. Outside of them, the Vikings only have back ups and depth players set to enter the free agent market next week.
So, on paper, this sounds great to Vikings fans. Next year they could have an upgrade at their quarterback position with Cousins and maintain all of their current key players.
However, next offseason would be when things start to turn ugly for them.
In 2019, Spotrac has the Vikings with $65,788,411 in cap space. Factor in a Cousins cap hit of $30-35 mllion and that number shrinks to around $33.5 million. Five to seven million dollars must be set aside for the Vikings draft picks, so, averaging that out, the Vikings cap space is now around $27.5 million.
In 2019, the Vikings have several key players set to hit free agency, including outside linebacker Anthony Barr, inside linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive ends Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
Bringing back all of these players would be simply impossible with only $27.5 million to work with. Barr, Kendricks and Hunter are three of the best players on the entire Vikings defense, while Diggs is their biggest offensive playmaker.
Looking at contracts from past free agents, we can estimate what these players will be due. Anthony Barr will likely see a contract in the area of $10, million per year, the current highest paid 4-3 outside linebacker in the league, Lavonte David, makes a little bit more than that. Kendricks could see around the same amount, Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner and Alec Ogletree all make slightly about that figure as well.
Robison could admittedly be back relatively cheap, or he could even retire. Hunter on the other hand is a star, making 25.5 sacks in his three year career. The pass rusher will be only 24 when he hits the free agent market and that production combined with his age could set him up for a huge deal. There are five defensive ends who currently make about $15 million per year and Hunter could easily command that on an open market.
Stefon Diggs, while often injured, is an incredibly dominant player when on the field. He is arguably the best player in the league at making contested catches. He could easily point to the contracts of players like Davante Adams, Dez Bryant and Doug Baldwin (who all make over $10 million per year) and demand a larger contract than any of them. For arguments sake, let’s say Diggs will get $12 million per year.
If these do indeed turn out to be the figures (they could be even more on an open market) the Vikings couldn’t possibly afford to keep more than two of these key players. Their defense would certainly not be the same without Barr, Kendricks or Hunter, while their offense would lack it’s current explosiveness without Diggs.
Over the next two offseasons, their free agents include Kyle Rudolph, Latavius Murray, Andrew Sendejo, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook and Pat Elflein. Keeping these players would also be extremely difficult if they were paying Cousins $30 million per year.
So, if the Vikings were to sign Kirk Cousins – yes, they would absolutely be favorites to win the NFC North next season. They might even be a popular pick to win the Superbowl. However, the cost would be their team immediately being dismantled by free agency. Personally, I don’t think Kirk Cousins is good enough to carry the Vikings once they start to lose star players. If the Vikings were to sign Kirk Cousins, that may end up being a great thing for the Lions, Packers and Bears in the long term.