While Aaron Rodgers was reportedly asking the Jets to target all of his Green Bay friends in free agency — lukewarm, aging security blankets from last year's sub-.500 Packers team — the Vikings Tuesday were making a procedural move that was perhaps telling about their future as well.
To the first point: If Rodgers, as reported by ESPN, has really given the Jets a wish list of free agents to pursue (and whom the Jets are actively pursuing) — former Packers wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb and tight end Marcedes Lewis among them — then a deal to bring Rodgers to the Jets is no more than a formality.
To the second point: The Vikings' decision to create $16 million in 2023 cap space by converting Cousins' salary into a signing bonus instead of generating that cap space via an extension is at least a sign that the Vikings and Cousins aren't close to an agreement on his long-term future in Minnesota.
It doesn't guarantee 2023 will be Cousins' final season in Minnesota, but it does give the Vikings that option.
Change is inevitable in the NFL, and Tuesday reinforced just how different the NFC North might look by 2024. If you imagine the Lions moving on at some point in the next 12 months from Jared Goff — hardly a lock after his impressive 2022 season but certainly possible given his up-and-down career and large cap number — Bears QB Justin Fields could be the most experienced quarterback in the division at this time next year.
The Rodgers news is preciously on-brand for Rodgers, who reportedly also included Odell Beckham Jr. on his wish list. He wants all his friends AND the splashy wide receiver the Packers would never give him.
For the Vikings, this starts the clock ticking on having a Cousins replacement ready to go by the start of the 2024 season. Since decisionmakers are already on record as saying they don't want a young QB playing at the start of the 2023 season, they presumably feel the same way about not wanting to start a rookie in 2024.
That makes the NFL draft next month even more interesting. Unless the Vikings could acquire their QB of the future via a trade, logic would point to drafting a QB this year if they really do want to create a succession plan.
Maybe they never get that far, and eventually they work out a medium-term extension with Cousins. But it sure looks like this for now: The Vikings have decided not to tie their future to Cousins and are willing to take on some uncertainty and potential salary cap pain in 2024.
And the Jets are finding out that Rodgers can be an altogether different kind of pain.