Vikings have some big decisions to make

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Sunday’s win over the Saints provided some clarity for the Vikings. Saturday’s loss to the 49ers may have reduced it, a bit.

Ownership needs to make some important decisions in the offseason, which began the moment the clock struck 0:00 in the fourth quarter of a divisional round exit ramp in Santa Clara.

As to three of the most important jobs in any professional football organization, it’s pay or get off the pot time, as a practical matter. Coach Mike Zimmer has a contract through 2020. G.M. Rick Spielman has a contract through 2020. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has a contract through 2020.

Cousins will receive $29 million in guaranteed pay in the coming season, the last of his three-year, fully-guaranteed contract. He can’t be traded this, he can’t be transition-tagged next year, and due to the 44-percent bump he’d receive over his $31 million cap number for 2020, he won’t be franchise-tagged.

“That’s just not my focus right now,” Cousins told reporters after Saturday’s loss, via Courtney Cronin of “My focus is on this game and the playoffs. I certainly love it here and love being a Viking.”

But in the NFL money can buy me love. Or it can at least prove that the love is reciprocal. Since Cousins signed his bar-setting contract two years ago, the bar has been bumped from $28 million annually to $35 million. For a guy who is capable of playing extremely well under the right circumstances — but who struggles when the running game sputters and/or the blocking doesn’t give him enough time to find a receiver — it’s hard to apply a value to his next contract.

Before a decision can be made about Cousins, the Vikings must decide who the decision-makers will be. While hardly unprecedented, it’s far from ideal to have a coach or a G.M. working in their lame duck seasons. The Vikings currently are scheduled to have both their coach and their G.M. in that capacity.

Thus, Job No. 1 becomes making a decision about the future of Zimmer and Spielman. Nine days ago, owner Mark Wilf said in a statement that the Vikings have “every intent” to keep them. Ultimately, intent is in the wallet of the intender.

Then there’s the question of whether the Vikings will pay running back Dalvin Cook, who enters the final year of his rookie contract and who may not be inclined to show up for anything in the offseason, training camp, or preseason until he receives a reward for what he has done, compensation for what he’ll be expected to continue to do, and protection against further injury.

Other roster and employment decisions loom, especially if offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski ends up getting the head-coaching job in Cleveland (after Saturday’s game, the Vikings may be rooting for that outcome). But the biggest decisions relate to the biggest jobs, and the riskiest move of all would be to stand pat for 2020 as to Zimmer, Spielman, Cousins, and Cook.

54 responses to “Vikings have some big decisions to make

  1. Under the tenure of the GM Rick Spielman, they have had a good record with many playoff appearances. Why would you not keep him?
    If you have an above appleridge gm and you fire him you are more likely to get a bad GM than an amazing GM.

    As for Zimmer, I don’t know. Is he average?
    If you’re looking for an upgrade just be aware you can also find a much worse coach.
    If there are Adam Gases out there that can wreck your team chemistry.

  2. Mike Zimmer deserves a lot of the blame as his defenses have underperformed in big games but Rick Spielman deserves more of the blame as his offensive lines have been terrible for over 10 years. Fans have been screaming for him to draft OL in the early rounds but he keeps taking corners that can’t cover and receivers that we don’t need. Not to mention that he still hasn’t been able to find a franchise QB even with a top 10 draft pick (Christian Ponder) and $100 million dollars in free agency (Kirk Cousins).

  3. Under the tenure of the GM Rick Spielman, they have had a good record with many playoff appearances. Why would you not keep him?
    If you have an above appleridge gm and you fire him you are more likely to get a bad GM than an amazing GM.

    As for Zimmer, I don’t know. Is he average?
    If you’re looking for an upgrade just be aware you can also find a much worse coach.

    There are Adam Gases out there that can wreck your team chemistry.

  4. THe wath begins: Will the Vikings overreact to being beaten in a playoff team, on the road, to the #1 seed coming off of a bye week?

  5. I don’t know what to make of Cousins. Sometimes he looks like one of the best and sometimes he looks like one of the worse. He obviously needs some help on the O line. Hard to tell If he will ever be the guy to get it done.

  6. Sure, fire a coach who’s built a good defense and has won more than lost. Spielman, like every other GM has had some busts like Ponder and Treadwell bit overall has built a fairly solid roster with the glaring exception of the OL.
    Cook is dynamic but there are also backs coming out every year with his skill set.
    Cousins is the QB for next year; With Kubiak Stefanski may be expendable.
    These are side issues to the real one facing the Vikings which is an aging defense with high salaries and talented players eligible for free agency, Harris will be a highly sought after player.

  7. John Harbaugh said his team lost in the trenches. I say my team lost in the trenches. We were in the final 8. As long as Zimmerman and Rick agree to keep drafting o line studs, sign them all!

  8. Please let Zimmer and Spielman walk along with COUSINS. COUSINS isn’t that bad, it’s just at the moment this team doesn’t protect him being a non mobile QB doesn’t work well for him.

  9. Just a couple of postseason tidbits from the 2012 draft class if I remember correctly. Feel free to correct me if Im wrong. It won’t be the first time.

    Kirk Cousins 1-2
    Ryan Tannehill 2-0


  10. All you have to do is look at the history of Spielman to know that he couldn’t pick a Qb to save his life (or more accurately, his job). He failed miserably in Miami and history has repeated itself in Minnesota.

    Say what you want about Cousins’s statistics this year, he looked like a MVP against teams below .500 but his inability to deliver in the big spots against the better teams has been a constant no matter what color his jersey has been. He throws some untimely INT’s and he lacks the ability to carry a team when the rushing attack falters.

    So what will the Wilf’s do?, retain everybody and let another year go by without any real chance at a NFL championship. That’s the Viking way but it will hardly stop the Viking fans from predicting another off-season paper championship.

  11. Zimmer doesn’t make adjustments, Spielman should be fired based on giving a career loser 84 mil guaranteed, and Cousins would already be gone if that said GM didn’t guarantee his contract. Cook will be the only one getting extended out of this group.

    The bigger question is the rest of the team. I’m sure Griffen will be gone with the emergence of Ifeadi, Rhodes and Waynes both need to hit the bricks, Harris May leave in free agency. The team will have money to spend, just have to make sure the person spending it is not a guy named Rick Spielman.

  12. “the riskiest move of all would be to stand pat for 2020 as to Zimmer, Spielman, Cousins, and Cook.”


    With Cousins locked up for another season coaches won’t be interested, so they may as well let lame duck Zim coach out his contract.

  13. Spielman has been lackluster for years. Constantly trading away 1st round draft picks is not the way to build a team.

    Zimmer shows no loyalty to anyone. He has zero knowledge about offense, yet he continually meddles on that side of the ball with his archaic run first philosophy. Zimmer first blamed offensive legend Norv Turner for the team’s offensive issues, and then went on to undercut several OC’s after that. The next time Zimmer accepts responsibility for the team’s failures will be the first.

    How exactly is Cousins supposed to excel in such a dysfunctional environment? Every game brings the possibility that his head coach will make him a scapegoat.

  14. Draft Herbert at all costs!!! Let him sit a year behind cousins.

    That will give you the money required to resign players using the available 29 mil that will open up after next season. Vikings would hav performed better with case yesterday then cousins.

  15. Cousins is a headcase. He thinks too much and thus can’t make decisions quick enough to be a top tier QB. They need to find a gem in the draft or a serviceable veteran and then bench Cousins. It’s win now, or rebuild after 2020 season as this team is getting older and more beat up by the minute.

  16. The Vikings need a new atmosphere and a coach who didn’t learn his motivational skills from Parcells who the only reason he could talk to the Giants players that way is because they were 10 year vets who’d played in the late 1970’s, tough as nails. This new millennium, we are in 2020 now. They will tell Zim yes sir because theyre scared of him, but Millenials don’t listen, Diggs cries & throws his helmet in the 2nd Q. Thielen just quits on routes. He’s done that multiple times. The CB’s quit covering too. Dungy fired from Tampa brings a SB to the Colts with Jim Mora’s team. Gruden wins in Tampa with dungy’s team. Sorry but Zim, Spielman for his failure to improve the online for 3 straight years and putting them in the cap hell he created to get cousins. The Vikings will never win with them both. Wilf would be best served to make Kubiak HC and hire Wade Philips as DC. With this same core group of players they would be much better immediately

  17. The Vikes are in salary cap hell. Cousins reminds me of Andy Dalton – you gotta pay up for a 10-15th ranked QB and pray you have a D that can make up for his occasional bad games. Now they gotta decide if Cook is worth it.

  18. It was pass interference at the end of the Saints game. Still not sure why it wasn’t called.

    The Vikings were 23rd in passing offense and 6th in rushing offense, not sure why this is Kirk’s vindication when their passing was in the bottom 3rd of the league.

    If you look at the stats, Dalvin Cook and the defense had more of an impact on the Vikings than Cousins did. The Vikings paid 28mill/yr for Kirk to be a game manager.

  19. My take on the loss is it’s on the GM. The O coordinator was trying to call quick passes. That o-line just didn’t hold up and those WRs couldn’t hold on. Team sport; not on Cousins entirely. Like Rodgers being wasted in GB with the worst defenses every year (during his prime, I think Barr ruined his shoulder for good)

  20. Cousins is a good QB. The Vikings however, cannot figure out how to fix their oline. Kirk would fit better with a team that has the oline to protect a pocket passing qb. The Vikings are better off going after a mobile qb after next season. I feel like the Vikings will have to draft to get what they need. Maybe Tua?

  21. How much could Dalvin Cook think he’s worth? In the biggest game of the year for the Vikings, their star produced 18 yards? One of our wide receivers had more than that on one carry against the Niners. He wasn’t drafted.

    Oh, and regarding Kirk Cousins question: I guess next year is a better time to try to do something about the Vikings endless quest for a Super Bowl win.

    Finally, 18-14-1 in the last two seasons. That’s what we call mediocre.

  22. They can save money by missing their slot in the draft again. Just sit and wait until the 7th round and then make all your picks. That should save about 6 millions of cap space.

  23. This team is not good enough to compete with the best teams in the NFL (as seen yesterday). Question #1 is, can this team do what is needed to improve enough?
    If the answer is “no” then you have to decide if it’s time for a legitimate rebuild. The Vikings are actually in a really good position to start a rebuild if they’re willing to trade assets and be BAD for a couple seasons. There are some big contracts that will expire in the next couple years and there are some very good players that you could trade for draft picks.
    Before doing that, you have to identify your GM and Coach that are going to lead that rebuild otherwise you end up like the Browns

  24. As a Packers fan I wanted the Vikings to win and hopefully play the Packers again, Cousins can make accurate throws but the O line does not give him much time, 49 ers were rushing 4 yet I did not see tight ends or backs helping out if they were they were not good blockers, if the Vikings had a solid O line it would be a much different team.

  25. No one on the team deserves more money.
    Our WRs can’t run routes right and separate.
    Our defense can’t play a whole game.
    Don’t extend Cook. He’s a third down back at best. We need a power back who doesn’t get hurt every other game.
    And, we need bigger and better OL guys.
    That’s all.

  26. You have to have a magical quarterback that does things that you are not expecting to win the game like a Russell Wilson, Pat Mahomes even Watson or Rogers. Things off script when the play breaks down.

    Cousins is not that guy. Pressure him and he looks pedestrian.

    I look at it like Zimmer could probably win with Russell Wilson but I don’t think Pete Carroll would win with Kirk Cousins.

  27. The Vikings only need to do what they needed to do before this season started: FIX THE OFFENSIVE LINE!!!!!! They don’t have a good enough line to battle it out with the top teams.

    Spielman deserves a lot of the blame for this. He did draft a good center, but they needed to do much more.

  28. Zimmer is a very good coach and Spielman has done a good job as GM. They both need 3-4 year extensions. The left side of the O-Line needs to be replaced. Reiff and Eiflein should be gone. New LT, New LG. Center and right side of line did well. If O’Neil can switch to the left side then draft a RT. Regardless the Vikings need 2 more solid starting O-Lineman. Cousins is the QB for another year and cannot succeed without a good O Line. A 3rd WR needs to be added. The team needs one more weapon. The Vikings have 2 excellent receivers and are solid at TE and RB. Defensively Rhodes has to restructure or be cut. Trey Waynes needs to be resigned. Makenzie needs to be signed. Hopefully Hughes is ready to go next year and steps in for Rhodes. I’m hoping Armon Watts develops and will be ready to be a solid rotational player next season. Everson Griffen is probably gone and the Vikings will need to add a DT and a DE. The majority of the team is returning so this team has another year’s window if they shore up these areas.

  29. If Stefanski leaves and Kubiak wants the OC job he should get it. If not bring back Pat Shurmer.

  30. At least 9 million over next years cap with just 34 players singed for next year. The most over the cap and least players under contract for 2020 season. They have a bunch of decisions to make.

  31. Their OLine needs to be better, yeah, but a lot of OLines look bad against that Niner group. The Packers certainly did. It’s like trying to block a grain harvester. All you can do is try to throw quick routes, try to hit quick openers in the run game,maybe run some no-huddle to try to tire them, and just basically hope you guess right most of the time. As for the future of the Vikings current hierarchy, I’ll leave that to those who care.

  32. I think Zim and the GM’s contracts are dependent on Cousins or rather the QB position. If Spielman has proven one thing, it’s despite his success with other positions, he continues to struggle drafting QB’s. Now, no one seems to be asking this question but: Does Cousins want to be in Minnesota past his third year, or does he want another above market value payday?

    If the answer is he wants to leave, then I think Spielman does too, because the Wilfs won’t want him picking another failure at QB. And if the GM goes, Zim likely will to because the next GM will want to pick his own coach.

  33. All you Cousins loving stat chasers blaming the online for everything need to realize he make the online look worse than they are. He won’t move around to avoid pressure, won’t step up to buy time. And if his initial read isn’t open he freezes or always checks down. This line has better players than the 2017 line but Keenum could avoid pressure and bought extra time. That type of QB fits better with this team. All these people calling for a perfect oline so Cousins can succeed have no idea how the NFL works.

  34. I suspect Kubiak will move on from this dumpster fire! And their stuck with that ridiculous QB contract! Their wounds are self-inflected!

  35. There’s plenty to consider, but first and foremost is the never ending quest to upgrade the offensive line. Right now, the Vikings are paying out premium money to Rieff and Kline for average return. This has to stop. Pat Elfein may be an adequate run blocker, but he cannot pass block to save his life. Unless the Vikings are going to part ways with Cousins and replace him with a more mobile QB, Rieff, Elfein and Kline have to go.

    Glad to hear Stefanski is leaving, and I wish him well, but his playcalling leaves a lot to be desired. It will be nice to have some fresh perspective on offense.

    The Vikings are good football team, but they will not ascend to greatness while the OL is being manhandled by the top DLs in the league. That’s what happened yesterday. I also think better coaching for the OL would help.

    Outside of that, I expect Rhodes to either take a significant pay cut, or he’ll be released. Griffen will likely not be back at his current salary either, due to age. That said, this team has quality talent at every level outside of the OL. It’s time to fix that problem and start being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

  36. Cousins needs to look in the mirror and realize he is not a 29 million dollar QB. What he should do if its possible is do a Brady deal. Take half and put the other half into getting a O-line. They looked like a bunch of turnstiles.

  37. If it makes Vikings fans feel any better, I too had my hopes up that they could win and face my Packers in Green Bay. Oh well. They did go farther than they should have this year.

  38. Cousins needs to look in the mirror and realize he is not a 29 million dollar QB. What he should do if its possible is do a Brady deal. Take half and put the other half into getting a O-line. They looked like a bunch of turnstiles.

    Yep, he is going to give back 14.5 million, to help the ‘team’? Keep dreaming. He is guaranteed 29 million if they win or not next year. On top of that next year is a contract year and Minnesota has no one to fall back on. He isn’t going to take less, more then likely he is going to ask for more.

  39. If Cousins is not so good, why did Shanahan want to bring him to SF? Is he a bad judge of talent? And how does one explain Cousins’ performance against the Saints? That wasn’t shabby.

    Cousins would have done much better, and will do better, with a solid OL. Any quarterback is not going to look good (or mobile) with an OL that is a sieve. It also explains why the rushing game was so poor as well. Lets face it SF and Packers embarrassed the Vikings because their lines dominated. That is what it takes to win in the Playoffs.

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