What would Minnesota’s options be after trading Kirk?
Let’s run through a hypothetical here for a minute. In this scenario, which I think is quite realistic heading into the offseason, the Vikings trade Kirk Cousins to the Pittsburgh Steelers for their first-round pick in 2022 as well as a future second-round selection.
The Steelers’ pick in 2022 is likely going to fall around the 20th overall pick. That would give the Vikings two selections in the top-20 in a class that features a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball. It also opens the door for a trade up into the top 10 to select a quarterback if they fall in love with one of the prospects in 2022.
In this case, the Vikings can take Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth, Jr. with the 12th overall pick to help revamp a declining secondary. With the 20th pick, the Vikings have their choice of a top wide receiver or another defensive stud – but I think they should opt for Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.
They can spend a second-round pick on one of the quarterbacks left on the board, likely to be either Carson Strong or Malik Willis. To protect those guys early on, the Vikings can seek a free agent quarterback to get them through the 2022 season without completely tanking it.
Minnesota can roll into the next season with Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston at quarterback while the rookie develops. They can also use the cap space that was saved by trading Cousins to help add depth on the defensive side of the ball.
Cornerback Darious Williams would be an excellent addition to the defense after starting opposite Jalen Ramsey in Los Angeles. Takk McKinley, a former first-round pick, is worth a look as the Vikings try to fix their pass rush. Minnesota could also go after some splashes in free agency with safeties Justin Reid and Jessie Bates III set to hit the market.
Offensively, the Vikings should be aggressive to add help for the next quarterback. Guard James Daniels would be a remarkable pickup in free agency if the Bears fail to retain him. Austin Corbett and Trai Turner are both excellent options as well.
Veterans such as Will Fuller V, Sammy Watkins, and Christian Kirk are names to watch as the Vikings look to get help in the wide receiver room. For as good as Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are, the Vikings need more consistency and depth beyond them.
None of this would be possible or even considerable without trading Kirk Cousins. This may lead to a bit of a down year for the team in 2022, but it would get them going in the right direction for the future.
If next season is truly that bad for the Vikings, they can always look at the 2023 NFL Draft as a way to find a quarterback option. If they were to go after a young star like Bryce Young or CJ Stroud in ’23, they could flip Malik Willis in a trade to a team that missed out on him the first time around.
There is no telling who is going to be atop the draft board a year from now, but the Vikings can really set themselves up for the future by stacking draft picks over the next few years. They don’t even have to immediately try to upgrade from Cousins if they think they will be better off waiting for the 2023 offseason.
That then allows the team to focus their entire 2022 draft on adding pieces that will allow them to compete in 2023 when they find that next quarterback. Spending three top-50 draft picks on immediate-impact players would surely help this team out.
Regardless of what the Vikings do, the decision is sure to upset some folks. This is bound to be a wild offseason, and it all starts with whoever they select as the next General Manager.