Every year, ESPN reporter Mike Sando takes the temperature of the room when it comes to teams’ offseason moves. He gathers commentary from executives around the league and forms a grade on each club’s offseason.
This year the Minnesota Vikings made one of the NFL’s biggest splashes by signing quarterback Kirk Cousins to a deal worth $84 million guaranteed. They also signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, but lost running back Jerick McKinnon and have not yet signed Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs or Danielle Hunter to contract extensions (though the team has historically finalized extensions closer to training camp).
Naturally Cousins was at the center of Sando’s conversations with opposing execs, who grade the Vikings a B.
There was disagreement within the comments of execs. One told Sando that Cousins is an upgrade from former quarterback Case Keenum.
“They went out and said, ‘We’ve talked ourselves through the professional tape and Kirk Cousins makes more throws in more situations than Case Keenum, so he is going to give us that little nudge we need to win those games when the defense is not at its best,'” one exec told Sando.
Another person was not as sold on Cousins.
“They still have Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs to pay, and then with Kirk, he is a good player, but he simply cannot finish games consistently,” the exec told Sando. “He was not a finisher at Michigan State and he is not a finisher in the league.”
Sando goes on to point out that Cousins has one of the league’s best QBRs when trailing by one score, though he did not have great numbers last season. With his team down one score in the fourth quarter, Cousins averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt had a 63.9 rating, per Pro-Football Reference.
Another executive said he believes the Vikings are working on signing Barr, Hunter and Diggs and even floating the idea of trading one of the three down the road.
“Not that I think Kirk Cousins is worth all that money, but in terms of upgrading the quarterback position, keeping their team intact and starting to extend their own guys, they did well,” one of the execs quoted by Sando said. “They re-signed Kendricks and now they are working on the other three guys. I think they can pull it off. They’ve got the cap room over the next few years. They could always pick two of the three guys to extend and trade the other one.”
The crux of the debate around the league seems to hing on whether future free agents get signed and whether execs believe Cousins will be the quarterback to get the Vikings over the hump. However, it isn’t mentioned that the team’s other options Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater had significant concerns about health and, in Keenum’s case, regression.
While it’s fair to grade most teams’ moves by June, the fact that the team could sign stars to huge contract extensions over the next few months makes the Vikings’ offseason too early to call.