Deshaun Watson is interested in the Vikings. But should they want it?
One of the biggest questions of the offseason for the Minnesota Vikings is what they will do at quarterback. With Kirk CousinsWith the looming cap of $45 million reached, the Vikings must decide whether to fully commit to him or explore another option.
Vikings fans must be drooling over Watson under center. Long bombs Justin Jefferson would fill the sky. Kevin O’Connell will ensure he plays in a modern attack. And the addition of a franchise quarterback in his prime would make Minnesota a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
There are many reasons why Watson would want to play for the Vikings. But the bigger question is whether the Vikings want Watson to play for them.
Watson is a unicorn in today’s NFL. Franchise quarterbacks don’t usually become available in your mid-twenties. Under usual circumstances, teams would stumble over each other to acquire his services. From a purely footballing point of view, he makes sense for the Vikings.
Since entering the league in 2017, only Drew Bree, Patrick Mahomesand Aaron Rodgers have a better passer rating than Watson (minimum 16 starts). He also ranks second in yards per attempt, third in completion percentage, and seventh in touchdown percentage (5.9%) during that span.
Although Cousins isn’t far behind, there’s an argument that he peaked as a quarterback. Unless the Vikings hope he becomes a career-ender Rich Gannonit’s a better investment to throw your chips at Watson with the chance that he takes his game to another level.
But while Watson is an upgrade on Cousins, other factors stand in the way of a deal.
From a roster line-up perspective, Watson’s contract would be a problem. With a $40.4 million cap hit for 2022, trading Watson for cousins would be a washout in terms of cap space. There’s a chance Watson will rework his deal to get out of Houston, but the Vikings would have to make cuts elsewhere for that to work.
It’s also possible that the Vikings will have to include draft picks in addition to cousins. If Minnesota were to distribute its next two draft picks in this scenario, they might not have the draft capital or the cap space to build a winning roster.
Although the Vikings are not a wasteland in terms of talent, they still need to rebuild in several areas to become contenders. Watson has the skills to overcome those flaws, but it would still be an uphill battle for a first-time GM.
Then there is the elephant in the room. Watson currently has 22 civil cases and an ongoing criminal investigation into sexual misconduct. Bringing in a player with Watson’s legal troubles looks bad from a public relations perspective, and he could face a lengthy suspension.
But while these allegations are not acceptable under any circumstances, the NFL’s level of tolerance differs between front offices.
Kansas City Chiefs selected Tyreek Hill in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft after beating and choking his pregnant girlfriend in 2014. Although there was another instance in which he allegedly broke his three-year-old son’s arm, the Chiefs plugged in as Hill became one of the NFL’s top receivers.
Joe Mixon slipped into the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft after a video surface of him hitting a woman in a bar. The Cincinnati Bengals took the risk and Mixon became one of the best running backs in the league.
Tennessee Titans drafted Jeffrey Simmons in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft despite a two year old video of him knocking a woman to the ground. Simmons has stayed clean since entering the NFL and becoming a Pro Bowler.
The old Minnesota regime was unwilling to take those kinds of risks. Faced with the choice of Trae Waynes and Marcus Peters in the 2015 draft, the Vikings took Waynes because of Peters’ dismissal from the University of Washington.
Peters became the 2015 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.
We don’t have a large sample of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s background, but we can go back to finding Vikings coaches.
When the Vikings had the opportunity to hire Jim Harbaugh, they rejected it in favor of O’Connell. Harbaugh was the flashier name and could have helped the Vikings win right away. But O’Connell thinks it brings more stability and may be the best long-term approach.
The same could go for the quarterback decision. If the Vikings throw out multiple first-round picks just to get Watson in more legal trouble, the Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell era could be over before it begins. Even if the Vikings don’t keep Cousins, finding a long-term franchise quarterback might be safer than betting the house on Watson.
Minnesota’s main goal should be to find a cohesive approach that helps them be a contender. While Watson could help that goal, it will depend on how much risk the Vikings are willing to take.