The 2021 NFL Draft will prove vital in Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer’s future with the Minnesota Vikings.
Both the general manager and head coach face steep expectations entering the 2021 season after overpromising on a playoff appearance a year ago. They pushed in all their chips to fortify the defense and solidify the offensive line in the draft this offseason by letting several veterans go.
But for the Vikings to select quarterback Kellen Mond with their second-most valuable pick seemed counterproductive if the team’s brain trust is truly in the hot seat.
It turns out that the decision to select Mond with the second pick of the third round came as a “strong recommendation” from Vikings ownership, KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported, shifting the crosshairs of the organization toward Kirk Cousins.
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Wolfson: The Wilfs Are Tired of Cutting ‘Big Fat Checks’ to Cousins
In an appearance on the Mackey & Judd on SKOR North podcast, Wolfson revealed that the biggest proponents pushing for a Cousins contingency plan was the Wilf family.
“I am told by multiple people that ownership drove the bus, not necessarily on that specific quarterback, Kellen Mond, but on the idea of taking a quarterback relatively high. And if it came down to it, even taking a quarterback in the first round,” Wolfson said. “The Wilf’s didn’t want Spielman to wait until round six to take a quarterback. They didn’t want it to be like last year: waiting until round seven, snagging, Nate Stanley.”
Wolfson maintained that it was not an order from the Wilf family but a prod that keeps Spielman in ownership’s good graces.
“I have it from multiple angles, strong angles, that it was the Wilf’s more than anyone internally saying, ‘Hey, it’s time for us to have some sort of succession plan. … You really need to take a long hard look at some of these upper-echelon quarterbacks,’ ” Wolfson added.
Mond entering the fold is a tangible sign of a shift in the franchise. Whether he becomes a starter within the next three seasons or Minnesota offers Cousins a contract extension remains to be seen.
However, Wolfson said he feels there’s a possibility Cousins may not finish his current contract with the Vikings and be traded in the offseason next year.
“I think we’ve hit a point where the Wilfs are a bit tired of cutting those big fat checks to Kirk Cousins,” Wolfson said. “Depending on how this year plays out, we could potentially be talking about an end date with Kirk as soon as this time next year.”
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Vikings’ Confidence in Mond Comes at Cousins’ Expense
Wolfson detailed that if Mond, who is projected to be the team’s backup QB, shows he’s capable and ready to take the starting reigns after his rookie season, Minnesota may be willing to move on from Cousins — dependent on how the 2021 season pans out.
“We need to see it at camp, in the preseason. We need to hear some good things [through] September, October, November in practices,” Wolfson said. “The hope would be [late in the 2021 season] that they have a healthy opinion if they want Mond to be their guy on opening day [in] 2022.”
Cousins’ 2022 salary is the biggest motivator in potentially parting ways with the veteran quarterback. He’s slated to be the highest-earning QB in the NFL next season, carrying a $45 million, fully guaranteed cap hit.
Minnesota habitually backloads contracts and often reaches extensions to dampen the blow of those payoff years. But if the Vikings aren’t interested in extending Cousins, they could save $35 million in cap space by trading him next offseason, per Sportrac.
It all boils down to how the team performs in 2021 and if Cousins warrants his hefty 2022 earnings after coming off one of the strongest stretches of his career — throwing 24 touchdowns and just three picks in the final 10 games of the season.
But if Minnesota struggles to reach new territory in the postseason with Cousins, the savings could be too good to pass up.