The Minnesota Vikings are at a crossroads. Sitting at 4-4, too good to give up on the season, too bad to coast forward as-is, the season-ending injury the Kirk Cousins has effectively sealed this team’s fate in 2023 — or has it?
Coming before the Football Court docket today:
Case 23-00851 “Should the Vikings trade for a quarterback to save their season?
Yes, the Vikings should save their season — James Dator
Minnesota made its decision during the offseason to commit to a “competitive rebuild.” That first part, “competitive” can’t be abandoned now just because Kirk Cousins is done for the year. As it stands this team doesn’t have a good option at QB, but they could easily flip a late-round pick for a player who could get them into the playoffs.
This is less about winning and losing right now, and more setting up confidence for the future. Punting on 2023 now would send a clear message to Justin Jefferson that this team isn’t committed to winning in a serious way — and getting their superstar locked up long-term is the most critical element to the future of this team.
It’s too late in the season to commit to a full tank. At 4-4 the team will be locked, at best, into the No. 9 or No. 10 pick. They’re already in draft purgatory when it comes to finding an elite quarterback, and so they might as well try to compete.
If we look at the NFC North, and the NFC as a whole, there’s a huge gap to get into the playoffs and make noise. There aren’t many convincing teams in the conference, and even the best ones have been very inconsistent. Minnesota’s offensive firepower with Jefferson back in the fold is good enough to surprise, especially with Jordan Addison emerging as a legitimate threat.
Long term the Vikings need to rework their team. Nobody is arguing that they don’t need to actually rebuild this team. Now is not the time forever. Save the season, build some confidence, and see what you can do in the offseason to find the quarterback of the future to build for sustained success.
The Vikings have an opportunity — Mark Schofield
“Great moments are born from great opportunity.”
Those were the words of Herb Brooks, as portrayed by Kurt Russell in the Disney movie Miracle. A film that revisits the 1980 United States gold medal-winning hockey team.
What the Vikings have right now is an opportunity.
They entered this season hoping to pull off a “competitive rebuild,” an approach outlined by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell as a means of revamping the roster, while staying in playoff contention.
Through three quarters of Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers, it seemed like they might actually pull it off. Minnesota was leading their division rivals in the fourth quarter and were on the cusp of improving to 4-4 on the season. After their victory, they slid into the seventh spot in the NFC standings, and if the playoffs began today, they would face a trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round.
However, that win came at a cost. Sunday fears were confirmed on Monday when an MRI confirmed that Cousins had suffered a torn Achilles, ending his season.
Injuries are a horrible thing, and Cousins was playing at a very high level prior to going down. But the Vikings have to press on, and as O’Connell said himself on Monday, “nobody feels sorry for anybody in this league.”
But this gives Minnesota a chance to move forward with the “rebuild” part of their preseason plan. Look around the quarterback landscape at the moment. Is there an option out there — an available one at that — that makes sense for Minnesota, given what the cost might be? Jameis Winston? Trey Lance? Does trading for one of those players and taking the time to get up to speed make sense?
What about signing a street free agent? Carson Wentz? Colt McCoy? Nick Foles? There’s a reason those players are still available.
The Vikings have an opportunity here to evaluate Jaren Hall while exploring options to set themselves up for next year’s draft. This does not need to be a full tank, but if the right offer came in for a player like Danielle Hunter, adding another pick in 2024 might be a very good thing.
Even if, as Counsel Dator outlines, the Vikings are slotted into the middle of the first round, that is not a bad place to be given the depth of this incoming quarterback class. Yes, Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are expected to be picked within the first five selections, but this is a deep group. Other potential first-round picks include J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr., Riley Leonard, and Bo Nix. Even if they end up picking in the middle of the first round, they will have options at quarterback.
Minnesota needs to make the most of this opportunity. Seeing Cousins go does in a kick to the gut, for sure. But it may in effect force the organization’s hand. Instead of making a dramatic move at quarterback to salvage the season, use this moment to evaluate what you have in Hall, make moves that add some additional draft capital in 2024, and set the organization up for the next few years.
The Verdict—Judge JP Acosta
Both Counsel Dator and Schofield have made very good points about the potential the Minnesota Vikings have to tear down or continue to compete for a spot in the playoffs. As of right now, the Vikings are holding the last spot in the playoffs and have games against the Falcons, Saints, Broncos and Bears coming up. Without QB Kirk Cousins those games definitely become more difficult, but each are still winnable and can help them maintain the course that they’re on for the playoffs. I think it does also mean something to the players in the locker room that the front office remains competitive even without the veteran QB. The roster still has talent, and if NFL sack leader Danielle Hunter doesn’t get traded, they can really make something shake.
However, I do also take into consideration that the market for competent QBs right now is…bare to say the least. You’re realistically looking at trading for guys like Jameis Winston, or maybe a Case Keenum reunion is in the works. Of course, Jaren Hall is unproven, but how realistic is a Winston or Keenum QB at keeping the Vikings in the playoff picture? The free agent QB market is much worse, with Carson Wentz being at the top of the pile. Given the current landscape of QB play in the NFL, if you don’t have one of those guys, you might not be a playoff caliber team. So I also understand the idea of packing it in for the season and getting a headstart on the rebuild.
Ultimately, I’m choosing to rule in favor of Counsel Dator, and the main reason is this: once you get past the top teams in the NFC, the last spot in the playoffs is wide open. Right now, the Vikings hold the 7 spot, but the Saints, Bucs, Rams and Commanders are really the only competition for it. None of those teams are especially intimidating, so the Vikings can still put together a stretch run and make the playoffs. In addition, this QB class is one where you can possibly find a guy in the middle of the first round, and if you pair them with the offensive talent they got you can make something happen. I know GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah wants a “competitive rebuild”, but I vote for them still being competitive.