In the first 120 starts of his career, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback threw the sixth-most touchdown passes (219) in NFL history compared to his all-time peers through 120 starts.
Cousins, in those first 120 starts, is responsible for more touchdown passes than Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Joe Montana and Kurt Warner. Like it or not, the man delivers the ball in the end zone while throwing relatively few interceptions.
Still, the Vikings could veer in a different direction this offseason, going the way of the Cincinnati Bengals in a quest to find a cheap young passer like Joe Burrow. The plan would be bold, ditching a prolific quarterback for adding a better one — from a place like the NFL Draft, which is a clockwork dice roll. Either way, you can’t hit a target without pulling the trigger.
New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is responsible for the decision, presumably with consultation from Vikings ownership. And if the Vikings do it, trading cousins elsewhere for a team like the Denver Broncos or the Pittsburgh Steelers, they should expect a 1st round pick in return, plus a 4th round or so.
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Everything about quarterback trades was established a year ago with the Mathew Stafford trade. The Detroit Lions received Jared Goff, two 1st round draft picks and an additional 3rd round for a sweetener from the Los Angeles Rams. The eyesight test may insist otherwise, but Stafford and Cousins are remarkably similar specimens, according to the math of the sport. In fact, Cousins has even been more productive over the past three years:
The cousins won’t get a Stafford-like deal for two reasons: a) Stafford is so adorable, and Cousins is, well, not a media darling b) Stafford’s cap is “only” $21 million this season.
In 2022, Cousins would charge his hypothetical new team $35 million over the cap while Minnesota eats $10 million in dead money. A $35 million capsule is harder to swallow than a $21 million capsule. Therefore, because Cousins isn’t as beloved as Stafford – and it’s not even close – plus the monetary entanglement of Cousins’ contract, the Vikings will get less for Cousins than the Lions for. Stafford.
If Cousins is traded to Denver, the Broncos’ 9th pick — and likely that only — would be the fair asking price in the market. If a better team with a draft position in their twenties wanted cousins, then the trade package would probably involve that lower first-round pick, plus a 4th-round pick or something in the neighborhood.
It all comes down to how Adofo-Mensah markets its merchandise. If he “begs” teams to take Cousins as to favor, the price falls. But the new general manager will not do stupid things like that.
Use the Stafford price from 2021. Then lower it. This is the roadmap for determining the value of Cousins.
One can also use the Carson Wentz trade as a barometer — which also involved a first-round Indianapolis Colts.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, airing every Wednesday with Raun Saw and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, “The Sopranos” and The Doors (the band).