32 for 32 : What are the Minnesota Vikings getting in Kirk Cousins?
Editor’s Note: This is a part of our 32 for 32 QB Profiles series.
The Minnesota Vikings, despite wringing a career season out of Case Keenum in 2017, were ultimately the successful team in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes to begin free agency. After earning $43,896,600 over the last two years playing under the franchise tag in Washington, Cousins will be paid a fully guaranteed $84 million by the Vikings for the next three years.
Productive in Washington
Despite failing to lead his team to the postseason in the last two seasons, Cousins has enjoyed a productive run since becoming Washington’s starting quarterback prior to the 2015 season. In those three seasons, Cousins has amassed 13,174 passing yards with 81 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. He eclipsed 4,000 yards passing in each season. Cousins paced the NFL in completion percentage in 2015 with a 69.8 percent rate.
Cousins may have enjoyed an even more productive season if he’d been afforded adequate protection by his offensive line. He took 49 sacks combined between 2015 and 2016. But Cousins was sacked 41 times in 2017 alone. His sack rate of 7.1 percent was easily the highest of his career. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cousins lost more yards to sacks (342) than any other quarterback.
Cousins has been a valuable fantasy asset over the last three seasons. He has amassed 1,021.40 fantasy points between 2015 and 2017, a total surpassed by only four players.
Cousins also has 13 rushing touchdowns in the last three seasons. Only Tyrod Taylor (14) and Cam Newton (21) have more rushing scores among quarterbacks.
Cousins’ New Backup
Cousins was not the only new arrival in the Vikings quarterback room this offseason. The team sent a 2019 fifth-round draft pick to the Denver Broncos (the new home of Case Keenum) in exchange for a 2018 seventh-round selection and Trevor Siemian. A starter for the Broncos in each of the last two seasons, Siemian’s winning record of 13-11 glosses over the resume of a mostly middling player.
Siemian completed less than 60 percent of his passes while throwing 30 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. Of all quarterbacks to have attempted at least 800 pass attempts in the last two seasons, only two produced a lower AY/A mark than Siemian (6.23).
Siemian is no stranger to being sacked, almost as much as Cousins — 64 in his last 26 games. Cousins had an identical rate last season as Siemian in 2017 (7.1%). Given the financial commitment to Cousins, the Vikings will no doubt be hoping Siemian doesn’t see much playing time, if any.
As previously mentioned, Case Keenum was productive with the Vikings last season. While his own efficiency obviously contributed, the Vikings ensured the pieces around Keenum were adequate to help him function. The Vikings have one of the top wide receiver tandems in the NFL in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. In Kyle Rudolph, they have one of the most efficient red zone receivers. The Vikings remained committed to the ground game in 2017, despite any great success. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars attempted more rushing plays than the Vikings. Most importantly, Vikings quarterbacks only took 27 sacks last season. Cousins will have lots of help.
New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is a strong proponent of the controversial idea of designing an offense around the strengths of a quarterback. If the Vikings are able to focus on Kirk Cousins’ strengths, he should flourish in his new home.
Assuming full health for all the Vikings pass-catchers, and a return to fitness for running back Dalvin Cook, it would be a surprise to see the Vikings disintegrate in 2018. Kirk Cousins has been a consistent fantasy performer as a starter in the NFL. I have no doubt he will remain so in the purple of the Vikings.
Neil resides near Liverpool in England. He lives with his fiancé and their two daughters, as well as a guinea pig named Piggle.
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