It’s hard not to question the Minnesota Vikings at this point.
In what was always going to be a pivotal offseason as the Super Bowl window appears to be closing, general manager Rick Spielman has made some questionable moves this month.
In just the past week or so, which has felt more like a lifetime as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, the Vikings have extended quarterback Kirk Cousins with a boatload of money, and in doing so, effectively lost some of the biggest names on the roster.
While the extension technically saved the Vikings about $10 million in salary-cap space, they immediately used that money to place the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris.
Meanwhile, what started with maligned cornerback Xavier Rhodes getting released as expected, nose tackle Linval Joseph also was let go, then mercurial receiver Stefon Diggs pretty much forced his way out of town via trade.
Soon after, defensive end Stephen Weatherly left. Then cornerback Trae Waynes. Then cornerback Mackensie Alexander.
It culminated with defensive end Everson Griffen announcing he won’t be coming back, either.
Is it a coincidence that all those players leaving the team shortly after Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension? Not at all.
These players all have massive egos, and it probably doesn’t sit well with most of them that Cousins has cashed in nearly $150 million of guaranteed money with the Vikings while not having to do much to prove his worth.
Aside from that, strictly from a payroll perspective, this type of mass exodus has been looming ever since Cousins signed his unprecedented fully guaranteed, three-year $84 million deal in 2018.
He is far and away the most expensive player on the roster, and his old contract — and new contract, for that matter — have forced the Vikings to pinch pennies from one position to the next.
That said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Spielman extended Cousins. If he hadn’t, he essentially would have been admitting he was wrong on his quarterback in the first place.
The contract a couple of years ago was the Vikings upping the ante. The extension last week was the Vikings pushing their chips to the middle of the table simply because they have no other choice.
They are completely pot stuck with Cousins at this point.
While there is a chance that running back Dalvin Cook can (literally) carry the load next season, like he did for parts of last season, the season is going to come down to Cousins stepping up.
He proved capable of that at times last season, passing for 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns, then earning a signature win over the New Orleans Saints in the opening round of the playoffs to silence some of the skeptics.
But he reverted back to his old self less than a week later in a dismal loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round. Take away the 41-yard touchdown to Diggs early in that game, and Cousins finished with 131 passing yards that game, almost all of which came in when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
It was par for the course with Cousins, who has spent most of his career trying to convince the critics that he’s clutch, only to fall flat on his face when the lights get bright.
Most concerning for the Vikings heading into next season is that, on paper, they are much worse than they were last season.
They just lost arguably their most-talented receiver, the heart-and-soul of their defensive line, and any semblance of depth in the secondary. At least they dished out a bunch of money to retain kicker Dan Bailey and the punter Britton Colquitt, amirite?
And, of course, they still have Cousins at quarterback for the next three seasons. All the Vikings can do now is hope that’s enough.