EAGAN, Minn. – Each offseason, Pro Football Focus examines one reason of optimism for each of the non-playoff teams in the NFL. As the Lions and Packers each won on Super Wild Card Sunday to advance to the Divisional Round, the Vikings and Bears were included in PFF's optimistic exercise.
On the Vikings, PFF wrote:
The Vikings showed a lot of competitive spirit in 2023. After starting 1-4, they responded with three straight wins before losing Kirk Cousins to a season-ending injury. It would have been fair to write off Minnesota, but the team never quit, finishing with a 7-10 record despite a revolving door at quarterback.
The defense looked reinvigorated under Brian Flores, and the offense is full of playmakers. If the Vikings re-sign Cousins in the offseason, they'll likely walk into 2024 with justified optimism.
PFF labeled the Vikings "A competitive roster that needs its quarterback back." But like every offseason, much for the Vikings is subject to change. The team has more than 20 in-house free agents, including Cousins and Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter. Other starters, including veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks and guard Dalton Risner, are also set to hit free agency in March.
On the Bears, PFF wrote:
The Bears could still go down the route of sticking with Justin Fields into his fourth year, but it doesn't feel like the former Buckeye has made enough tangible progress under this regime to trust those instincts. He could be a great NFL starter, but it shouldn't be in Chicago.
The Bears have a unique opportunity this offseason with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They can draft Caleb Williams or Drake Maye and take the franchise in a new direction with a new signal-caller. Both Williams and Maye have the potential to be stars in the NFL; it's just up to the Bears to pick their guy and nurture him.
Click here to read Pro Football Focus' full story.
Athletic Answers 10 Key Kirk Cousins Questions
For the next two months, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will address the Vikings quarterback situation before the new league year begins on March 13, when Cousins' contract is set to expire and would include a dead-money hit against Minnesota's salary cap.
The Athletic's Alec Lewis detailed 10 key questions surrounding the Vikings looming decision.
What decision must the Vikings make?
[At his end-of-season press conference,] Adofo-Mensah shared that he hopes to bring back Cousins for 2024. The decision, though, depends on the money involved. You might want to order the seafood platter — but at what cost?
Ownership, Adofo-Mensah, O'Connell and the rest of the Vikings leadership must decide how much they are willing to pay for an accomplished quarterback who turns 36 in August.
Adofo-Mensah, especially, has not been shy about expressing his belief that Cousins can transcend traditional age curves. The torn Achilles might factor into the Vikings' ultimate decision, but as Cousins explained this week, he is a "pocket passer," which might limit the extent to which this injury will affect his future. Other factors like locker room impact will matter in the team's decision. But ultimately, the Vikings will likely have a dollar figure and contract structure in mind. How well will it match up with what Cousins is seeking?
The dead-cap hit would come in the form of void years that were added to Cousins' contract last year that included conversion of money into a signing bonus. The move allowed the team to have more flexibility against the salary cap in 2023.
What happens to the dead-cap hit if the Vikings extend Cousins?
It depends on the final structure of the deal, but odds are the Vikings would want to push some of that money back. Signing Cousins would signal leadership's belief the team is close to contending. If that's the case, it's sensible to move money into the future to build the best possible team in the present.