Free Agency Roundtable: Kirk Cousins to the Vikings

Various staff members share their views on the fallout from Kirk Cousins signing with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings handed Kirk Cousins a huge guaranteed contract, which moved their Super Bowl Championship odds from 16-1 down to 12-1 (fourth-best) at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Does the addition of Cousins significantly improve the Vikings odds of fielding a Super Bowl winner?

Jason Wood: When it became clear Kirk Cousins was hitting free agency, I pegged the Vikings and the Jets as the two most likely landing spots. I also noted the Vikings should make every effort to sign him and, if they did so, should be considered the favorite in the NFC. I stand by that viewpoint. We can debate where Cousins ranks among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, but any analyst worth their salt would argue Cousins is a productive passer and an upgrade over Case Keenum.

Will Grant: At first, I really liked the idea of Cousins coming to Minnesota and making them a Super Bowl contender next season and was surprised the Vikings cut bait on all three of their quarterbacks to give Cousins the opportunity.

But since the signing, my speculation has cooled a bit. Cousins has had some solid games for Washington, but he has also had some stinkers, such as his 158-0-3 passing line in the 2017 finale. Minnesota will also have a new offensive coordinator, so not only will Cousins be learning a new scheme -- everyone else will be also. Dalvin Cook's health is still up in the air and with Jerick McKinnon in San Francisco now, there are some questions at running back for the Vikings as well.

Daniel Simpkins: I’m with Jason on this one. No disrespect to Case Keenum, who is a fantastic human being off the field, but he does not have the skills to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. We can tell the NFL as a whole was of the same mind on this point because, in free agency, the demand for his services was minimal. While Cousins himself has physical and mental limitations to his game, they are not as pronounced.

Andy Hicks: Due to the strengths of their running game and defense, the Vikings just need their quarterback to be efficient and capable of not losing the game on his own. Case Keenum was very good for Minnesota last year, but they barely beat the Saints on a fluke play in the Divisional round and lost soundly in the NFC championship game. How much of an upgrade is Cousins over Keenum? From a fantasy standpoint he is likely to be superior, but from an actual NFL player perspective I don't think the gap is so great.

Dan Hindery: I agree, Andy. Cousins isn’t such a big step up from the Keenum we saw in 2017. Keenum ranked second in ESPN's QBR behind only Carson Wentz last season. He also finished 7th in the NFL in passer rating (98.3). Keenum was accurate, took care of the ball and did a nice job of using his legs to extend plays. However, Minnesota did not seem to trust that Keenum would be able to maintain his 2017 level of play moving forward, which is a valid concern when comparing his breakthrough performance to his previous seasons. On the other hand, Cousins has put together three straight above-average seasons (passer ratings of 101.6, 97.2 and 93.9). He is a proven commodity, which makes it understandable why Minnesota would target him so aggressively.

Coming off back-to-back cumulative top-5 fantasy seasons in Washington, can the move to Minnesota raise Cousins’ fantasy ceiling any higher?

Jason Wood: I don’t see how Cousins can’t thrive in his new surroundings. He has better supporting talent. The Vikings defense will ensure an enviable game script, and more chances in the red zone. And the stadium is ideal because it protects against the elements. The stars are aligned for Cousins to remain a fantasy QB1 fixture for at least the next three seasons.

Will Grant: Despite my concerns about the Vikings as Super Bowl contenders, I’d be fine taking Cousins in the QB 6-12 range next season. He makes an excellent quarterback by committee candidate in redraft leagues and is even more valuable in Best Ball leagues since he’s bound to have some monster weeks with his new weapons.

Stephen Holloway: While Cousins should positively impact his receivers and the Vikings overall team efficiency, his fantasy production could take a hit. If Dalvin Cook returns healthy, the Vikings should have a much better running game than Washington had in each of the last two seasons. Cousins ran for four touchdowns in 2016 and 2017 -- a number that figures to regress.

Daniel Simpkins: I think Cousins will match, but not exceed his fantasy output in Minnesota. He has a better surrounding cast on offense, but the defense is also far better than the unit Washington fielded the last couple years. There will not be a need for Cousins to put the pedal to the metal as much, which doesn’t seem to be Mike Zimmer’s style anyway.

Alessandro Miglio: I'm with the consensus that Cousins is an upgrade, and that it will be generally good for fantasy purposes. How good, though, is debatable. Cousins is an average-at-best quarterback in the NFL, which caps his fantasy ceiling in Minnesota. Like Stephen, I’m also worried Minnesota's defense will keep Cousins from slinging the ball as much as he did in Washington.

Andy Hicks: While Cousins is in the perfect position to succeed as a real life NFL quarterback, I also wonder about his fantasy prospects as a Viking. I wouldn't be surprised to see regression in his counting stats and a finish closer to borderline QB1, making him a poor value relative to his ADP, which will likely be in the top-6 quarterbacks.

Dan Hindery: Cousins steps into an offense with quite a bit of firepower. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are one of the better wide receiver duos in the league. Kyle Rudolph is a reliable, well-rounded weapon at tight end. Dalvin Cook flashed the potential to be one of the league's top backs before tearing his ACL.

However, despite the surrounding talent, I’m with the majority -- Cousins is unlikely to match some of his gaudier fantasy production from past seasons (i.e. 4,917 yards in 2016) because Minnesota isn't going to have to be as aggressive as Cousins' Washington offenses were. The Vikings defense allowed the second-fewest points last season (just 17.4 per game) and returns basically intact. Minnesota also scored the seventh-most rushing touchdowns and showed an ability to protect leads by running the ball, even without their top back for most of the season.

Is there a particular member of the Vikings receiving corps you expect to benefit (or suffer) with Cousins onboard?

Jason Wood: It’s a net positive for everyone on the roster. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are both well rounded and therefore not limited by any particular quarterback tendencies. And Cousins is capable (and willing) to make throws all over the field. He can go vertical or dink and dunk, depending on the game script.

Daniel Simpkins: Like Jason, I don’t see anyone in particular benefiting from the arrival of Cousins, but I do foresee an overall uptick for the unit. I am hopeful LaQuon Treadwell will begin to catch on even more now that Jarius Wright is in Carolina.

Alessandro Miglio: Cousins’ arrival stabilizes the fantasy scoring in Minnesota. In spite of some hot stretches, Stefon Diggs was one of the most maddeningly inconsistent fantasy options last season. His floor gets bumped up significantly with Cousins at the helm. The same goes for Kyle Rudolph, who might just be the biggest beneficiary of this quarterback marriage. Cousins liked throwing to his tight ends in Washington.

Andy Hicks: It’s hard to see if there will be any member of the receiving corps that will be better or worse off with Cousins. He spread the ball around in Washington and the Vikings have talented enough options at receiver and tight end to continue that trend.

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