It’s finally happening.
The Minnesota Vikings are (reportedly) signing (it’s happening, people) the best quarterback on the free-agent market. One firmly in his prime, and a guy who had his pick of the league’s quarterback-needy teams.
Not Brett Favre. Not Donovan McNabb. Not Gus Frerotte. A bona fide starter.
You like that?
Well, he does. Kirk Cousins is set to become the highest-paid quarterback in the league if the reports of a three-year deal with around $90 million in guaranteed money are accurate, while the Vikings are primed for another run to the playoffs and beyond.
Case Keenum, former third-string journeyman and one-time Minnesota folk hero, is off to Colorado, where he’s expected to be the Denver Broncos’ stopgap solution heading into the draft.
Keenum helped the Vikings get within a game of the Super Bowl, taking Minnesota much further than anyone could have anticipated after Week 1 starter Sam Bradford‘s various knee ailments flared up.
The other quarterback standing in Keenum’s way, front-office favorite Teddy Bridgewater, didn’t see any meaningful action last season after recovering from a catastrophic knee injury. Keenum was simply too good.
He set career highs across the board, throwing for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns with just seven interceptions, posting a 98.3 quarterback rating and a 67.6 completion percentage. It was a massive step forward for Keenum, who had underwhelmed in Houston and Los Angeles (then St. Louis) before making his way to Minnesota.
But where Keenum remains unproven as a starter after playing just one season of productive football — of his 10 best games as a starter, seven came last season — Cousins represents a little added stability for a team that has rarely had it at quarterback.
And while Cousins’ stats aren’t exactly gaudy, it’s rare to find this level of quarterback consistency in free agency. Cousins is the first quarterback ever to change teams after posting three consecutive 4,000-yard seasons per NFL Research.
To the Vikings’ current regime, such a resume represents everything they’ve never had. Setting the bar firmly at “fine,” Minnesota has featured just one back-to-back 3,000-yard passer since Daunte Culpepper’s departure following the 2005 season.
Assuming he plays out his contract and can get to his career average as a full-time starter, Cousins would become the second, third and fourth Vikings quarterback since Culpepper to throw for 4,000 yards in a Vikings uniform.
Favre remains the only other quarterback to do it.
His phenomenal 2009 season (4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) isn’t just an outlier. It’s all there is.
Christian Ponder (2011-13) is the only Vikings quarterback since Culpepper to log at least 100 passing attempts in more than two consecutive seasons. Frerotte, McNabb, Bradford and Matt Cassel were all one-and-done over that span. Favre lasted two seasons, one of them productive. Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson and Teddy Bridgewater are the only others to make it to two.
If Cousins plays even “fine” football over the next few years, He’ll make plenty of people forget about that list in a hurry.