• If the reports are true, Cousins will be the next signal-caller in Minnesota. Can he succeed in an offense without Jay Gruden and Sean McVay?
By Conor Orr
March 13, 2018

Tuesday represented a historic shift in the NFL contractual landscape for game-changing quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins capitalized on a dim passer market that had at least two deep-pocketed suitors and, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, is primed to sign a three-year deal with Minnesota, which could set the template for all other top-tier quarterbacks to come.

While the Jets cleared their deck and the Broncos made some last-minute cap space, the Vikings have the first-visit advantage, and any team familiar with the desperate air of free agency knows that you don’t let a player you like leave the building.

This is a tough acquisition to grade. On one hand, Cousins is just one of three quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Reference, who have averaged more than 260 yards, and at least a passer rating of 90 through their first six seasons. The other two were Dan Marino and Kurt Warner. There has not been a passer of his caliber to hit the free agent market since Peyton Manning, and even then, Manning was on the downside of his career arc.

Cousins is 29, with three consecutive 4,000-plus yard seasons to his credit.

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Here’s what we don’t know: Can he succeed in a talented, cutthroat division without the aid of a Jay Gruden/Sean McVay offense? Cousins came up during a time when Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and DeSean Jackson were all in their prime or at least just past their prime. It represented an ideal situation for a quarterback that could find his rhythm in a quick passing offense with a set of wide receivers perfectly tailored to break bad defenses quickly.

A lot has been made about Cousins’s record against teams that finished the season .500 or better (4–19). Quarterback wins are a useless statistic, but his ability to dominate against prime competition will always plague him. He’ll be asked to recreate his legacy when he heads to Minnesota. No longer is Cousins the plucky upstart mid-round pick, who was twice franchised by an organization that didn’t believe in him. Now, he could be the final piece—a player with potentially burdensome expectations on his shoulders. This Vikings defense is built to be great, but for how much longer?


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