Good morning from South Minneapolis – from my house, which I’ve rarely strayed from except for essential trips and exercise during the last 2 1/2 months of a global health pandemic … which sits about 20 blocks from the smoldering wreckage of Lake and Minnehaha … and about 30 blocks from where George Floyd died in police custody.
No, things are not normal.
On Wednesday – after Floyd’s death, after an initial wave of protests spurred by justified anger, but before the world started watching the Twin Cities burn – we recorded the latest episode of the Access Vikings podcast.
Some of it focused on what this NFL season might look like given the coronavirus pandemic. But the last 15 minutes or so addressed a host of questions from listeners via Twitter – and the vast majority of those were about football and an assumption (or at least a hope) that things would be normal-ish during the 2020 season and beyond.
One of the questions we tackled was regarding quarterback Kirk Cousins and his future with the Vikings – a subject that became front-brain for fans seemingly the minute he signed here in 2018. The question read: “Kirk’s final year in 2022. $45 million cap hit. What are the team’s most logical options when that approaches?”
Less than 48 hours after that question arrived, the notion of whether sports do more to bond us or simply distract us – one I grapple with constantly already – is even stronger.
If you were so inclined, you could draw a line from an economic system that pays someone tens of millions of dollars a year to play football while others struggle just to survive and get pretty uncomfortable about how that inequality contributes to the pain and anger spilling out in our cities.
But … we also live complicated lives that allow us to compartmentalize and care about wildly disparate things. You can care about climate change and reality TV. You can care about coronavirus and whether the NHL season will resume. And you can care about both what is happening around you in this moment and the distant future of the Vikings’ quarterback position. The proportion is key, but it can be done.
If you have room in your life today for both the truly important and relatively inconsequential, and would like a break for a few minutes from endlessly scrolling through your news feed, here are a couple extra thoughts about the Cousins contract:
*One point of important clarity regarding his two-year extension: though it wasn’t fully guaranteed, the final year of the deal in 2022, which carries a $45 million cap hit, becomes fully guaranteed by the third day of the league year in 2021. Barring a disaster in 2020, it’s hard to imagine Cousins not being here by then. So you might as well mark him as realistically signed through 2022. ESPN deems him one of the most locked-in QBs in the league.
*As our Ben Goessling and Andrew Krammer noted on the podcast, though, the new deal did not include a no-trade clause. It’s plausible that if things aren’t working out, or there is a regime change, the Vikings could seek to trade Cousins – most likely after the 2021 season, when there would “only” be $10 million in dead money counted against their salary cap. If they tried to trade him after 2020, the hit would be $20 million – a steep price to pay.
*But the reality that seems most likely is that Cousins is here for the long haul and that the Vikings two years from now do what they did earlier this offseason: restructure Cousins’ deal with another medium-length extension. That, of course, becomes far more likely if Cousins performs well in 2020. And that, of course, is dependent in part on what exactly happens with the NFL season in general.
A quarterback graded No. 6 in the NFL by Pro Football Focus in 2019 sure seems like he’s here for a while – and quite possibly through the end of his career, if he keeps signing a series of extensions. There are worse things if you’re a Vikings fan.
And there are far worse things in life.