WHAT DO THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS DO NOW?
By Andy Davies
This has not been the season that anybody thought the Minnesota Vikings would have.
At 1-4, they have already lost the same number of games that they did in the entire 2022 season. With Justin Jefferson announced as out for the next four games, their season may already be over.
So where do they go now?
Their opponents so far this season have a combined record of 14-9. Whilst they have played the 4-1 Kansas City Chiefs and 5-0 Philadelphia Eagles, they have also faced the 0-5 Carolina Panthers, which was their only win of the season so far.
Last season, they were called the worst 13-win team in NFL history, well it now appears they are one of the best 1-4 teams in recent years, with two games lost by four points or less and no games lost by more than seven.
With the exception of their Monday Night Football clash with the San Francisco 49ers in Week Seven, they have a fairly favourable schedule until the start of Week 15.
Their next eight games are against the Chicago Bears, 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, Bears and Raiders before their Week 15 clash with Cincinnati Bengals. From Week Six to 14, their opponents are 17-19. There are winnable games, but missing Jefferson for four weeks could be the difference between a win and a loss in these games.
Against the Bears, Packers, and Falcons, you would have backed Minnesota more if they had their star wideout available. The Niners game is an expected loss even if Jefferson was there. Now, with Jefferson absent there is a realistic possibility of a 1-8 or 2-7 start.
Time Up For Cousins In Minnesota?
Don’t let the 1-4 start convince you Cousins has had a bad season. With 1,498 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions, he is third in the entire league for passing yards, first in the league for touchdown passes and 11 quarterbacks have thrown for more picks.
Their defense is middle of the road when it comes to yards allowed, with a ranking of 21st for total yards allowed, 24th for passing yards allowed, 13th for rushing yards allowed and 24th for total points given up. Looking at this, you would not think they were 1-4.
However, the quarterback will be the one criticised should they start 1-8 or 2-7. With Cousins in the final year of his contract and the possibility of a high draft pick, the Vikings may see it as a time to trade him whilst he still has trade value.
The trade deadline is on October 31st, and they may feel that they could get something back as they prepare to rebuild.
Cousins arrive in Minnesota ahead of the 2018 season and whilst he hasn’t been the quarterback they thought they would get; you cannot say his time with the team has been a failure either.
In six seasons, he has thrown for 22,432 yards, 166 touchdowns to just 56 interceptions. However, his regular season record is 47-37-1. They only had two winning seasons, two playoff campaigns and a 1-2 record in those games to show for it.
A lack of wins in the big games has often been a narrative that has surrounded Cousins his entire career. He is no longer playing under the head coach or general manager that signed him in the 2018 offseason and give him the biggest contract in league history at that time.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah both arrived 2022, and they may feel the time is now to start afresh. Comments from the latter from both this year and last year suggests that is what they are going to do.
“I’ll be frank,” said Adofo-Mensah in 2022. “The one asset where you get nervous about not burning it down is quarterback.
“[The Super Bowl] is more likely to win if you have that quarterback. It’s very unlikely to have that quarterback.”
“We like where we are at the quarterback position. But every option is open to us going forward. We’re just really excited about Kirk this year. The weapons we’ve added in free agency, the weapons we’ve added in the draft, and we’ll see what happens after that.”
To Tank Or Not To Tank?
This is the question that the front office will have. Should they carry on to 1-8 or 2-7, then they may feel they have no other option than to trade Cousins and look ahead to the 2024 NFL Draft.
According to Tankathon, Minnesota are currently projected to have the fourth overall pick, with only the Broncos and Bears scheduled to have higher picks than the Vikings.
A lot can change from now until next year, both in terms of overall records and teams trading up and down. However, if this is to remain how it is now, then the Vikings will have their choice of quarterbacks.
The Bears and Broncos have Justin Fields and Russell Wilson respectively, players both teams gave up draft capital for. Like Minnesota, they both may feel they cannot pass up on the opportunity. It is hard to see both the Bears and Broncos going QB, which may mean that Drake Maye becomes available for the Vikings.
On a rookie deal, Maye will help the Vikings salary cap situation. Currently 16th with around $30 million in available cap space in 2024, going with Maye over Cousins may see them skyrocket up the salary cap table.
Having got a young receiver in this year’s NFL Draft in Jordan Addison, as well as Jefferson, this would be a smooth transition should a rookie QB join the team next year. With a Vikings defense that is bound to improve after a year with Brian Flores as their defensive coordinator, things could be on the up for this team.
Feature Image Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
A Sports Journalism masters graduate, Andy has been writing NFL articles since January 2020. Originally from Wales, Andy also writes for Decyfr Sport, The Franchise Tag and Dolphins Talk, as well as appearing on podcasts and videos for Euro Tripz and Across the Pod. find him on twitter @andydaviessport.