Kirk Cousins wants to retire in Minnesota, so should the Vikings plan for that? – Minnesota Vikings Blog
EAGAN, Minnesota — After signing a contract extension in March, Kirk Cousins articulated a clear vision for his future with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I would love to retire as a Viking,” Cousins said, “and so I would love to play my way, if you want. I know I have to earn the right to do that. If I could draw it that would be to play well enough to never have to play or wear another shirt anywhere else.”
The Vikings made no such statement, but after committing $70 million in full guarantees over the next two years, they signaled a plan to leave it in place until at least the 2023 season. cousins turns 35 in August 2023, raising some long-term questions that could affect the team’s approach to next week’s draft (April 28-30, ESPN).
Cousins has been exceptionally durable in his career, but can the Vikings expect that to continue into his late 30s? What is the responsible team building approach in the meantime? When is a good time to begin a thorough and orderly process for a quarterback transition? If they’re not seriously considering one of the best quarterbacks in 2022, would it make sense to sign a developing player in that position? Would a quarterback drafted on Day 2 or 3 realistically figure into future planning? Or does the active 2022 trade market for veteran newbies portend a new era of quarterback availability in the future?
None of these issues are new, but the people making the decisions for the Vikings are. Coach Kevin O’Connell said this week that he and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have talked “a lot” about the direction of the quarterback job over the past three months. They’ve made their short-term commitment to Cousins clear, but regarding the draft, O’Connell said, “I don’t think anything is on the table.”
The Vikings sit 12th overall, the same spot the Houston Texans selected Deshaun Watson in 2017. But the Texans didn’t have an established starter at the time, and as the Green Bay Packers have learned — most recently when they upset Aaron Rodgers by signing Jordan Love in the first round in 2020 — a proactive draft strategy can have unintended consequences in the locker room.
This is not always the case, of course. Two picks before the Texans selected Watson, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted quarterback Patrick Mahomes at No. 10 at a time when Pro Bowl starter Alex Smith was 33.
NFL teams don’t seem thrilled about the top quarterback class of 2022 – which includes Liberty’s Malik Willis, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral – but they weren’t enamored with the class either. 2017. (Pass-rusher Myles Garrett became No. 1 overall for the Cleveland Browns.) The Chiefs were executing a similar approach to what Adofo-Mensah articulated in recent interviews, an approach he described as “competitive reconstruction”. Adofo-Mensah pushed back against the idea of a team building for the future or trying to win now, saying “we’re trying to navigate both worlds”.
Tackling the 2024 quarterback job in 2022 could fit that vision, though Adofo-Mensah has made it clear he wants to see “how far we can take this thing” with Cousins.
“[O’Connell] has a great term he uses: “We do things on our terms,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We do things on our terms on the pitch, and I think that applies to team building as well.”
One question the Vikings won’t be able to address during the draft, or anytime soon, is whether they already have Cousins’ eventual successor on their roster. Former general manager Rick Spielman drafted Kellen Mond with the second 2021 third-round pick (No. 66 overall), but Mond didn’t make a big impression in his rookie season. He missed 10 days of training camp after testing positive for COVID-19, which is part of why the Vikings added veteran Sean Mannion as the No. 2 quarterback just before the start of the season. Former manager Mike Zimmer has made it clear he has no interest in seeing Mond on the pitch at the end of a losing season; Mond took three snaps in the season finale, but only after Cousins and Mannion were ruled out.
O’Connell studied Mond in the build-up to the draft last year, in his role as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, but said he wouldn’t pass judgment until they start working together in the field.
“I always thought he was really successful in college. [at Texas A&M]”, O’Connell said. “[He was] success in the pocket, creation off schedule. He has real athleticism. And I think he’s a very accurate passer.
“Now what will it look like in our offense? It’s really up to Kellen and the rest of our guys to get things done. I am delighted to go on the grass with him. … He was great in the meeting rooms from the start. You feel some leadership from him, some early ownership of what we’re really putting on these guys. Now can you take it from the classroom to the training ground and go from there?
Long-term starting quarterbacks come mostly from the first round of the draft — 28 of the 32 starting quarterbacks slated for the 2022 season were first-rounders — but the Cousins’ contract gave the Vikings some time to chart their next step. Adofo-Mensah said he “isn’t afraid of uncertainty,” but the need to tackle a post-Cousins world is coming sooner than expected.