After losing to the Kansas City Chiefs at home this weekend, the Minnesota Vikings' 2023 season is not just teetering on the brink. It's just about in the tank. Sitting at 1-4, a full three games behind the Detroit Lions, the Vikings were going to be hard-pressed to make an unlikely postseason run-- and that was before the news arrived on Tuesday morning that superstar Justin Jefferson was hitting the IR with a hamstring injury.
There will be many ripple effects from this news, but the biggest could be the future of Cousins in a Vikings uniform. He is effectively a free agent next offseason thanks to a bunch of void years in his contract and the fact that he didn't sign an extension with Minnesota before the year suggests both sides are open to moving on. If that is indeed the case, there's no reason for Cousins or the Vikings to suffer through a losing season together. Jeff Saturday made that very case on Get Up this morning.
The team would be better off moving Cousins now and getting something for him instead of just walking away. Cousins would be better off getting traded and playing for a team with stakes, therefore giving himself the best possible chance for another big payday next offseason, instead of stumbling through one last year in a Vikings uniform as the roster falls apart around him. It is nearly unheard-of for a starting-caliber QB to get moved mid-season but this is the perfect storm required for that to happen.
It helps that Cousins is very much a known quantity at this point in his career. He's good enough to put up big numbers in a good offensive system surrounded by weapons but he will struggle to carry the team to victory. He's good for the occasional comeback but rarely makes the one big throw needed to win a big game. His turnovers can be equal parts bewildering and backbreaking, but don't come around terribly often. In short, Cousins is very good but will always fall short of great.
Being very good is certainly enough to get teams interested in parting with assets for his services. So who could go after Cousins if the Vikings do indeed decide to move on?
New York Jets
Obviously. The Jets have proven to have a great defense and the Breece Hall/Garrett Wilson combination is good enough to elevate most offenses to a league-average level. Just not one helmed by Zach Wilson, unfortunately. Speaking of Wilson, he's actually been okay recently but not anywhere near good enough that New York shouldn't upgrade if they have a shot. They will be the presumptive favorites to land Cousins if he hits the open market.
The problem is twofold: they don't have many assets to give up in exchange for Cousins after trading picks for Aaron Rodgers, and it doesn't matter how good their quarterback is if the offensive line is horrible. Which it is, and will only get worse after losing starting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker for the year this week. Still-- if the Vikings are willing to deal, the Jets should be first on the line because Cousins is good enough to take this team to the playoffs.
New England Patriots
This is not something the Patriots *should* do but it is definitely something Bill Belichick *would* do. Mac Jones is not getting the job done and Belichick is too old to tank. He has his eyes on Don Shula's all-time coaching wins record. Setting up the Patriots for long-term success is a bonus, not a primary goal. Cousins would get Belichick closer to the record and potentially return the team to some level of respectability after things have completely bottomed out in that department in the last two seasons. Above all, trading future assets for a QB that will get the team to the playoffs and bow out immediately is something the post-Brady Patriots would definitely do.
Of course, the playoffs are no guarantee even with Cousins under center. The offensive line is in shambles and there is zero talent at any skill position. Cousins could only do so much. But the line of logic exists for the Patriots and therefore you can't rule them out.
Desmond Ridder admittedly bounced back on Sunday after a horrific showing in London and gave Falcons fans hope that, eventually, he could be a decent QB. Cousins is better than decent right now, though, and the Falcons need to go after him if he becomes available. They have a serious chance to win the division this year and inserting Cousins into that offense with guys like Kyle Pitts, Bijan Robinson, and Drake London could make them legitimately dangerous. Arthur Smith has been awfully crotechty about how he's chosen to use those players and consistent in his support of Ridder but surely he'd be excited to work with a QB better than what he had in Tennessee and what he currently has in Atlanta.
This is probably the most fun destination for Cousins. He gets to elevate young stars in the making with a legit shot at making noise in the postseason thanks to the structure around him and the weak division the Falcons enjoy. Atlanta needs to be in the running for Cousins if they seriously want to compete while the NFC South is in the dumps.