In the “my biological clock is ticking like this” scene from My Cousin Vinny, the main character asks, “Is there any more sh-t we can pile on to the top of the outcome of this case?”
And so I ask, “Is there any more sh-t we can pile on the top of the outcome of Sunday’s Vikings-Saints game?”
Of the six teams in the NFC playoff field, a one-and-done outcome could spark significant changes. Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com lays out what could happen, if (as expected) the Vikings lose to the Saints on Sunday in New Orleans.
Coach Mike Zimmer, signed through 2020, could be gone. Unless the Vikings choose to make him a Mike Tice-in-2005-style lame duck, they’ll need to either extend the contract or move on. And moving on could entail Zimmer moving back to Dallas, where he could end up replacing Jason Garrett as head coach of the Cowboys. A win over the Saints would change that vibe dramatically, quite possibly tying Zimmer to the Vikings for years to come.
Ditto for G.M. Rick Spielman, who arrived after the Fran Foley fiasco in early 2006 and who has remained in place since then. The Vikings have been good not great during Spielman’s tenure, qualifying for the playoffs in 2008, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2019, and advancing to the NFC Championship twice. (Again, good not great.) Signed through 2020 like Zimmer, there’s a chance Spielman could be looking for something else, too — and plenty of other teams would regard the quality of teams he has built as a major step up over their own franchises.
On the roster, the biggest question continues to be quarterback Kirk Cousins. His contract runs through 2020, with a fully-guaranteed salary of $29.5 million due next year. He costs $31 million against the cap whether he’s on the team or not; the only way to get relief would be to trade him. To do that, the Vikings would have to get him to waive his no-trade clause.
To do that, the trade quite possibly would need to involve a team that would be willing to sign Cousins to a new deal. Otherwise, it would be a one-year rental. His contract precludes application of the transition tag, and the rules of the franchise tag would result in a whopping $44.64 million tender for 2021, since he’d be entitled to a 44-percent raise over his 2020 cap number.
The alternative would be a lame-duck season for Cousins, which may not be good for anyone. Except Cousins, who no matter what happens will be paid $30 million in 2020.
Other roster changes are inevitable, as they are for every team. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes surely won’t be back, and defensive end Everson Griffen could be out, too. But the Vikings will be at a key crossroads in several different ways, if/when the season ends on Sunday.