Two things are true: The Vikings have repeatedly said with their actions and words that 2023 could be Kirk Cousins’ last season as their quarterback, and the Jets are in the market for immediate QB help after Aaron Rodgers’ stunning season-ending injury. Another thing is also true: After falling 34-28 to the Eagles on Thursday night, Minnesota is 0-2 to start the year.
You know what comes next.
OK, maybe you don’t. So here it is: Cousins could soon make legitimate sense as a Jets trade target, if he doesn’t already. If you’re skeptical, you might be thinking one of the following things: But the Vikings aren’t out of it after just two games! But the Jets are already paying big money for Rodgers! But Cousins has a no-trade clause! But the Jets said Zach Wilson is their guy!
And you know what? There’s a perfectly reasonable response for each.
No, the Vikings aren’t out of it. But this is a team whose general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, said back in March that 2023 would be a “competitive rebuild.” History suggests an 0-2 start is deadly; between 2007-2021, only 12 of 125 teams to lose their first two ended up in the playoffs. Minnesota spent much of its offseason shipping out win-now pieces like Dalvin Cook and Eric Kendricks. It reportedly considered a trade for ex-49ers QB Trey Lance at the combine.
Why on Earth wouldn’t they entertain selling high on Cousins in the QB’s own contract year, before he has the chance to cash in and return less via compensatory picks? It’s not like his current offensive line is necessarily strong enough to keep him upright in the Twin Cities anyway. Imagine the potential long-term payoff for Adofo-Mensah if he got at least one premium pick in a deal, potentially packaging multiple picks in 2024 for the kind of draft-day QB swing they’ve been unable to take for years.
Of course, the Jets have lucrative money tied to Rodgers. But don’t forget that Cousins is only under contract for this year, due $20.25 million through 2023. The Vikings would inevitably eat some of that to facilitate a deal if that’s what they intended to do. And who says Cousins wouldn’t restructure the deal — and waive the no-trade clause — if it meant suiting up alongside the Jets’ weapons and defense, getting the chance to play savior in the Big Apple, then striking free-agency gold yet again in 2024?
As for Zach Wilson, let’s get real. The Jets may well “have a lot of faith” in the former No. 2 overall pick, as they say, but only to an extent. Remember why they traded for a nearly 40-year-old Rodgers in the first place? The only reason they’ve downplayed a big-name acquisition as emergency Rodgers insurance is because there aren’t any other feasible alternatives. The best of the street free agents would be marginal upgrades on Wilson at best, and they don’t know the system. Cousins doesn’t either, of course, but now that the Vikings are sliding, his availability could change, and there’s no denying the upgrade that he would be.
For all the knocks against him, Cousins has proven year after year he’s a borderline top 10 starter. On Thursday in particular, not even a shoddy O-line could stop him from clawing his way into a potential comeback. If the Jets are truly all-in on a title run, as they’ve advertised, there couldn’t be a much better Plan B.
As with any potential blockbuster trade, there are hurdles that would need to be cleared. But there are too many logical connections here to write off the possibility, especially if the Vikings’ winless streak continues. (The Chargers and Chiefs are two of their next three opponents, for what it’s worth.) It’s no wonder “Thursday Night Football” analyst Richard Sherman, who played under Jets coach Robert Saleh in San Francisco, all but predicted a Cousins move to New York after Week 2’s opening game.
Vikings? Jets? It’s your move.