Life after Kirk Cousins is something that every Minnesota Vikings fan has wondered about, dare I say dreamed about. After his most recent contract extension early into the offseason, one that included a no-trade clause, those rumors were quickly quelled for another year. However, out of the darkness, another QB is suddenly being connected to the Vikings as an option for “QB of the future”. That player is current Cleveland Brown Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield has been looking for a way out of Cleveland ever since the Browns made their controversial trade for Deshaun Watson. The team devoted a massive number of resources to the former Houston Texan. They gave Houston three first-round picks, a 2023 third rounder, and a 2024 fourth rounder. On top of that, they gave him a $230 million fully guaranteed contract. If it wasn’t clear after the trade, it’s clear from the contract that Cleveland is moving on from Mayfield.
With that in mind, ESPN insider Dan Graziano has detailed why the Minnesota Vikings could be a landing spot for the QB. He compared it to the New Orleans Saints’ recent QB situation. New Orleans had an aging Drew Brees as their QB1, but that didn’t stop them from bringing in Jameis Winston from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be his backup. As he progressed, Winston eventually became the Week 1 starter in 2021. He suffered a season-ending knee injury but is expected to be the Saints QB once again in 2022.
A similar pathway would be plausible for Mayfield if Minnesota believes he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. After being the first overall pick in 2018, the quarterback’s early NFL career has been tumultuous at best. Over his first four seasons, the Browns have gone 29-30, but they did make a playoff appearance in 2020. It’s the only appearance for Cleveland since 2002, and their wild card win over the Steelers was their first playoff victory since 1994.
2021 was a frustrating season for Mayfield derailed by injury. In 14 games, he threw for 3010 yards, 17 TDs, and 13 INTs. He also completed 60.5% of his passes. The Browns went 6-8 in those games.
As for his fit with the Minnesota Vikings, a Mayfield trade feels like a step backwards for Minnesota. Other than mobility, Cousins is superior to Mayfield in every way as a passer. He has a stronger arm, is more accurate, and much more durable.
This last portion is most critical. Minnesota has had the luxury of not needing to worry too much about their backup QB in recent years, hence why Sean Mannion has been able to stick around, because Cousins is almost assuredly going to be there. With Mayfield under center, this luxury goes out the window.
I’ve talked about this before, but even if the Vikings were going to try and address life after Cousins soon, I would much prefer that they do it through the draft. There are a number of talented passers in the 2023 class that Minnesota should take a look at.
Assuredly, some NFL team will take a shot at Mayfield this year because of his name. It is clear by now that the relationship between he and Cleveland is irreparable, and the two sides are eager to move on from each other. Whether it be as a bridge QB for a rookie, or even a long-term QB1, Mayfield will get a trade somewhere. Hopefully it just doesn’t involve the Minnesota Vikings.