The Cleveland Browns could reasonably finagle a trade for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason, if:
A – New General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah wants to be finished with the Cousins Experiment.
B – Browns HC Kevin Stefanski is disillusioned with Baker Mayfield.
If those two sentiments are true, consider the Vikings and Browns bedfellows.
Cousins was signed in 2018 to get the Vikings over the hump after the fresh steam of a 13-3 season, led by reservist quarterback Case Keenum. The team raced to the NFC Championship – against all odds – after losing QB1 Teddy Bridgewater the year before, RB1 Dalvin Cook in Week 4, and QB1 Sam Bradford in Week 5. It did not matter. Minnesota got better after losing those men but was not prepared to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship. So close.
In four seasons, Cousins has not dragged the Vikings over the hump – and really hasn’t even been close – missing out on the postseason in three of four seasons with the ex-Commander at QB1. Therefore, some folks are sick of him. They do not care about the numbers – they want a new beginning, presumably with a young quarterback like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Joe Burrow.
The anti-Cousins hubbub is the main reason he’s constantly linked to trade talks – just like the Cousins-to-Browns rumors.
Well, here’s the deal on that little plan. Should the Vikings trade Cousins to Adofo-Mensah’s old stomping grounds, the Vikings will inherit Baker Mayfield. The only caveat would be a potential threeway trade, which is rare in the NFL. If there is no trade threesome, Minnesota would likely acquire Mayfield and something else for Cousins.
Mayfield was ultra-promising in 2018, 2019, and 2020, progressing at a moderate pace for maturation. His development rate was not breakneck like Mahomes, Allen, or Burrow, but he was proving he could lead a football team.
But then the 2021 season ruined it all.
Mayfield’s Browns were often inept, leaving the onus of failure squarely on Mayfield’s shoulders. And when losses are stacking up, Mayfield is not the best posterchild for an organization. He can be brash, blunt, and even moody. Those traits are dandy when the team is winning – like the 2020 season – but everything goes sour when losses permeate the atmosphere, especially for Mayfield’s persona.
His salary in 2022 is around $ 18 million – which feels like a bargain compared to Cousins’ vulgar $ 45 million cap hit. Plus, Mayfield was injured in 2021, playing through the pain like a Brett Favre-type but hurting his team while doing so.
The Vikings will have to audition Mayfield at QB1 for at least one year if the team wants to send Cousins to Cleveland. Mayfield would receive one last hurray as a starter, likely with Kellen Mond or an unidentified rookie waiting in the wings.
His rookie deal expires at the end of 2022.
If Mayfield dazzled in Minnesota – boom – there’s the young quarterback of future yearned for by the masses. A lousy Mayfield, in hypothetical retrospect, would’ve been a temporary vehicle by which to rid the franchise of Cousins.
Do not get it twisted. With the Adofo-Mensah-Browns-Cousins rumors, Mayfield is very much a man on stage. Unless a third team joins the mix, the Vikings would have to employ Mayfield as QB1 for a Cousins trade to work in CLE.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).