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Zulgad: Vikings might be willing to pay the (steep) price to finally end QB carousel

By Judd Zulgad

Zygi Wilf purchased the Vikings in 2005, knowing he was inheriting a franchise with some serious question marks but figuring quarterback wasn’t one of them.

Daunte Culpepper was coming off a season in which he had been an NFL MVP candidate, passing for a league-leading 4,717 yards with 39 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. That was Culpepper’s sixth NFL season and at the age of 28 the expectation was that he would continue to be one of the league’s best quarterbacks for years to come.

That all came crashing down in the seventh game of the 2005 season when Culpepper took a nasty hit while scrambling in Carolina and tore three of the four major ligaments in his right knee.

That marked Culpepper’s final game with the Vikings. Since that time the franchise has started 15 players at the quarterback position. Christian Ponder tops the list with 36 starts, followed by Brett Favre (29) and Teddy Bridgewater (28).

Ponder, the 12th-overall pick in the 2011 draft, was given numerous opportunities but proved to be a bust.

Favre, who led the Vikings to the 2009 NFC title game, was near the end of his Hall of Fame career when he joined Minnesota and retired after a miserable 2010 season.

Bridgewater, the 32nd and final pick of the first round in the 2014 draft, was expected to be the quarterback of the future before he suffered a catastrophic knee injury late in training camp in 2016.

The Vikings opened this season with Sam Bradford, acquired from the Eagles for a first-round pick after Bridgewater was injured, as their starter but he lasted one game before a recurring knee issue basically ended his year. Coach Mike Zimmer turned to backup Case Keenum as his starter.

Despite the fact Keenum led the Vikings to 13 victories, including a playoff win over New Orleans that put the Vikings in the NFC title game, it was clear Zimmer never fully trusted Keenum. On Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported the Vikings aren’t expected to use the franchise tag on Keenum and that he will hit free agency next month.

This means the Vikings either are planning to turn the quarterback job back over to Bridgewater, a definite risk considering he has played in only a small part of one game in two years, or they will be starting the 16th quarterback of Wilf’s 14-year run as owner when the 2018 season opens.

If the Vikings choose to go with the latter option, it appears general manager Rick Spielman will be joining the high-priced bidding process of trying to sign soon-to-be free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins.

There have been reports that the New York Jets will pay whatever it takes to get Cousins – there also has been a report to the contrary when it comes to how much the Jets would be willing to shell out – and the Denver Broncos also have been tossed out as a potential landing spot.

Cousins, 29, hasn’t missed a start with the Washington Redskins the past three seasons and had the franchise tag put on him both in 2016 and 2017. But the Redskins appear ready to move on, having made a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs for Alex Smith, and Cousins is now the biggest name quarterback on the market and appears ready to cash in.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported that if the Broncos are willing to pay Cousins $25 million per season and $80 million guaranteed he believes Cousins will end up in Denver. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford is the current NFL leader in total guaranteed money at $60.5 million.

The Broncos are coming off a 5-11 season but are believed to have an opportunity to make a quick turnaround. Although they can clear more room, the Broncos have only $24.6 million in available cap space right now.

The Vikings have $54.7 million available, while the Jets have the second-most cap space in the league at $84.3 million. If the Jets do something crazy, such as guarantee all of Cousins’ contract, the Vikings will struggle to compete. But if the offers are close, the Vikings have plenty to sell Cousins on.

This includes an offense that has one of the NFL’s best receiving duos in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and a standout and versatile running back in Dalvin Cook, who is coming off ACL surgery. The fact the defense remains one of the NFL’s best, despite its meltdown in the NFC title game, means Cousins could consider himself the final piece to a Super Bowl puzzle in Minnesota.

Cousins also would have the advantage of playing his home games indoors and would spend many of his hours at the Vikings’ brand new state of the art practice facility in Eagan.

Since Wilf took over the franchise, he has often given his executives the go-ahead to pursue top-end talent. Whether that be trading for Jared Allen, and rewarding the defensive end with a mega-contract in 2008, or signing Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson to a then-staggering seven-year, $49 million deal in 2006. Wilf paid Favre a million dollars per start in 2009 and even more in 2010.

With the Vikings having more revenue sources than ever, Cousins is likely to see an extremely lucrative offer from the team once free agency opens on March 14. If he accepts, the QB carousel that Wilf has become so accustomed to seeing in Minnesota might finally come to an end.

The post Zulgad: Vikings might be willing to pay the (steep) price to finally end QB carousel appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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