NFL free agency for the 2018 season officially opened Wednesday afternoon, and a number of moves have already been made, including the Vikings signing Kirk Cousins Thursday.
ESPN's Mike Sando took a look at quarterbacks around the league and considered which ones "stand to benefit from the initial wave of roster activity," even if the quarterback wasn't a free agent himself.
Sando named three signal callers he believes will benefit the most, topping the list with Cousins. He said that Cousins, entering his seventh NFL season, will profit in more ways than just the contract he signed. Sando wrote:
Winning should be easier with the Vikings defense, which has ranked third in ESPN's efficiency metric over the past three seasons (Washington was 22nd). Minnesota's defensive performance since 2015 was good enough for an average team to win about two-thirds of the time, compared to about 45 percent of the time for Washington's defense over the same span.
A study I produced on quarterbacks after the 2017 season ranked them by how many points they needed to score to win their starts. The median figure was 25 points for Cousins, tied with Andrew Luck and Derek Carr for the most since 2012 among quarterbacks with at least 48 starts over that span. The median was 17 points needed to win for the Vikings quarterbacks last season. Washington scored at least 17 points in 44 of Cousins' 57 starts (77 percent).
Sando added that Cousins "gained solid wide receivers" in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. He also likely will be working with running back Dalvin Cook, who got off to a hot start as a rookie in 2017 before suffering a torn ACL in Week 4.
*Cousins is guaranteed to play at least nine games indoors each season, eight in Minnesota and one in Detroit. That is up from one (Dallas) when he was with Washington. *
Second on Sando's list of quarterbacks was Drew Brees, who re-signed for his 18th season with the Saints.
And at number three? Sando tabbed Vikings division rival Mitchell Trubisky, who will enter his second season with the Bears. Chicago has recently added Trey Burton, Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency, and Sando said Trubisky will benefit from the Bears "effort to address a glaring weakness."
MMQB's Vrentas on Cousins choosing Vikings based on 'right fit'
Following Cousins' signing with the Vikings, MMQB's Jenny Vrentas connected with the quarterback to talk about the new deal and his decision process.
According to Vrentas, Cousins' wife, Julie, on Monday ordered the purple-and-gold striped tie that Cousins wore during his introductory press conference at TCO Performance Center.
"The two-day shipping came through for us," Cousins told Vrentas over the phone. "We had it down to a couple teams, so it wasn't too much of a risk."
Cousins was wearing that tie as he spoke, fresh off the podium from his introductory press conference as the Vikings new quarterback, in which he expertly deflected questions about Super Bowl expectations and referred to legendary Minneapolis sports columnist Sid Hartman by name. Cousins is the type of guy who is prepared for everything, although the past 72 hours had moved at a pace faster than even he had anticipated.
Cousins told Vrentas that it was all about "trying to find the right fit," and that he was impressed by the Wilf family's "commitment to winning" and providing the resources necessary for the Vikings to add Cousins to the fold.
"I had gathered a lot of facts and knew that Minnesota provided a lot to be excited about," Cousins told Vrentas. "It was going to come down to Mike McCartney, my agent, being to be able to negotiate with the team on Monday and Tuesday and see if, from a business standpoint, it could match up. By Tuesday morning it had, and it was time to move forward on a visit and then sign the contract."
Cousins was intent on taking visits before putting pen to paper on a contract — even if he only took one visit, to the Vikings, and it ended up being a formality, as the other interested teams had by then made commitments to other quarterbacks.
The Vikings newest quarterback reiterated that he needed to "ensure" they were the right fit for him.
"Didn't want to have any bogeymen hiding around the corner. There were none to be found, and I assumed that would be the case," Cousins told Vrentas. "Just thought it was smart to be prudent, take our time and ensure that we were making the right decision. Because it was a big one."
Souhan: Vikings made 'right move' in signing Cousins
In the wake of the Vikings adding Cousins as their new quarterback Thursday, *Star Tribune *reporter Jim Souhan posed some hypothetical questions.
*Did the Vikings make the right decision? *
Souhan weighed in on the transaction that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said "checked all the boxes." Souhan wrote:
*The bar will be set high. Cousins is taking over a team that went to the NFC title game. But I think they made the right call. *
There have been four 4,000-yard passing seasons in Vikings history. Cousins has produced three in the last three seasons.
Souhan opined that "any consternation surrounding [Cousins' signing] should be considered silly." He emphasized that "the Vikings can afford to pay him and keep most, if not all, of their other quality players."
He added that there's a benefit to adding a proven starting quarterback over drafting one who will need more time to develop.
*I don't want to overpraise Cousins. He has to prove he can lead a good team, that he can handle the pressure inflicted upon him by his contract and his new team's ambition, that he can make the right play at the right time. *
But if healthy, he will give the Vikings three years of big plays and production.