Minnesota Vikings' QB options after Kirk Cousins' injury: Trade targets and free agents

2T4A808 Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA. 29th Oct, 2023. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during a tv timeout during the NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Darren Lee/CSM (Credit Image: © Darren Lee/Cal Sport Media). Credit: csm/Alamy Live News

• Although unrealistic, Titans QB Ryan Tannehill is a trade option: The Titans would have to convert the majority of Tannehill’s $15 million remaining salary into a signing bonus to ease the financial burden for the acquiring team.

• Could Minnesota return to Case Keenum? The Houston Texans backup has some history with the Vikings and would be an upgrade over fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall.

• Free agent Carson Wentz would provide the most upside: If Wentz were to limit mistakes and make the most of a potentially final opportunity in the NFL, a redemption arc would be in the cards.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

A rollercoaster of a month for the Minnesota Vikings had the team feeling every emotion on the spectrum, and the euphoria of a Week 8 win over the bitter rival Green Bay Packers to pull to 4-4 on the season was quickly replaced by sorrow at the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins for the season to an Achilles injury.

Cousins was playing some of the best football of his career, with his 81.7 passing grade through Week 7 the sixth-best mark at the position. That grade and ranking are also likely to go up following the final reviews of Week 8 action. Cousins led the NFL with 16 touchdown passes through Week 7 despite his receivers dropping the most passes of any team (17). On passes targeted 10-plus yards downfield, Cousins earned a 91.5 grade with 10 touchdowns to two interceptions. This is a devastating blow for the Vikings, but more importantly for Cousins, who was set to enter free agency this offseason on a high note.

Now Minnesota, which looked to be among the most obvious trade deadline sellers just two weeks ago, is squarely in the NFC North divisional race and the NFC wild-card picture with superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson expected to return in two weeks. However, the Vikings are now expected to be without their starting quarterback for the remainder of the season, so what should they do if they have transitioned from sellers to buyers?

Trade candidates

QB Case Keenum, Houston Texans

Keenum was the folk hero who delivered the Minneapolis Miracle back in 2017, helping the Vikings reach the NFC Championship game behind the play of an elite defense. Keenum is now the third quarterback in Houston, with rookie C.J. Stroud playing great football and Davis Mills a more-than-capable backup. Keenum’s veteran presence in the young room is probably valued a good bit, but Minnesota could at least consider a reunion despite this current regime not having the same connection with him.

Keenum has attempted fewer than 100 total passes since 2020, so it’s not likely he’s the savior once again, but Minnesota needs help after rookie fifth-round pick Jaren Hall was strip-sacked on his second NFL dropback in Week 8.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

This is a splash move — one that is probably unrealistic — but it makes sense for all parties. There is simply no reason for the Tennessee Titans to hand the reins back over to Tannehill once he is healthy, even if Will Levis comes back down to earth following his four-touchdown outing against a stingy Atlanta Falcons defense.

Tannehill has four touchdown passes over his past 218 pass attempts, with two so far this season, and Levis threw four on 29 attempts in Week 8. Tannehill hasn’t thrown three touchdowns in a game since 2021.

The big hurdle here is Tannehill’s $15 million in remaining salary. The Titans would have to convert the majority of that figure into a signing bonus to ease the financial burden for the acquiring team. However, Tennessee should view even a minimum contract for 10 weeks as savings, plus they’d add a solid draft pick simply by agreeing to retain all that money. It’s not likely at all, but it does make sense.

Ryan Tannehill Five-Year Snapshot
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Free agents

Colt McCoy

McCoy overlapped with Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell for three seasons in Washington from 2017 to 2019, so the familiarity is there. However, the Arizona Cardinals chose to trade for and start Josh Dobbs two weeks after acquiring him instead of rolling with McCoy, and rookie Clayton Tune secured the No. 3 job.

McCoy earned a 66.9 passing grade in 2022 over four outings, with five big-time throws to two turnover-worthy plays. He averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt and had a pressure-to-sack rate of 27.1%. Now at 37 years old, McCoy is even older than Cousins and has been away from football to start the season. Odds are he could pick up this offense faster than any other option at this juncture, though.

Carson Wentz

Do not underestimate the love that the Minnesota region has for former North Dakota State legend Carson Wentz, and this is the move that in theory carries the most upside — even with some obvious risk, as well.

Wentz struggled last season in Washington, earning a 58.9 grade with more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws and recording a 24.8% pressure-to-sack rate. However, this Vikings offensive line and pass-catching group could elevate the play of a talented quarterback with the ability to make splash plays at any moment. If Wentz can limit mistakes and make the most of what could be the best NFL opportunity that ever comes his way again, there’s a redemption arc to be had here.


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