Deion Saunders makes one thing clear when it comes to how he feels about Kirk Cousins, the Vikings would be wise to make a call to Houston and Wild coach Dean Evason finally gives Joel Eriksson Ek a well-earned promotion.
- Item: Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who is now the coach at Jackson State in Mississippi, took a verbal jab at Cousins as he hosted a panel that included Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson among others. Sanders praised Jefferson for the work he put in to become a standout in his first season before adding, “I ain’t crazy about your quarterback, but your head coach (Mike Zimmer) is one of my best friends. I ain’t crazy about your quarterback but you put in work.”
- Reaction: Sanders has never been afraid to speak his mind so his comment about Cousins isn’t surprising. But it is interesting for one reason. As Sanders points out, he is very good friends with Zimmer and it’s not a huge leap to think that Deion and Zimmer have discussed privately what they like and don’t like about Cousins. I know, I know. Statistically, Cousins had a good season and he’s not the Vikings biggest problem and on and on. But it’s interesting that Sanders would say that about Cousins and also intriguing that Jefferson’s expression never changes as Sanders says three times, “I ain’t crazy about your quarterback.” I’ll give you one quarterback I bet Sanders is crazy about. His name is Deshaun Watson.
- Item: Watson has requested a trade from the Texans, NFL sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. ESPN also reported that Houston’s hiring of David Culley as coach will not change the quarterback’s thinking.
- Reaction: How often does an elite quarterback become available at the age of 25? The answer is almost never and that’s why every team with any uncertainty at the QB position needs to get in contact with new Houston general manager Nick Caserio. This includes the Vikings. The Jets and Dolphins make the most sense when it comes to potential landing spots for Watson, but that doesn’t mean Vikings general manager Rick Spielman shouldn’t see if he can get involved. The Texans asking price will be big but Watson is a guy, and he plays a position, at which paying the price will be worth it. In the Vikings case, that likely would mean two or three first-round picks as a starting point. If you think that’s too rich, keep in mind that Watson could solve what has been a frequent issue for the Vikings since Fran Tarkenton left town after the 1978 season. Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension that will take effect in 2022. Unlike Cousins, Watson would be worth that investment. What about Cousins? The Vikings would need to move him, perhaps to the 49ers. None of this would be easy from a salary-cap standpoint but, again, this is a unique opportunity. The Vikings — who are no strangers to big moves — would be selling themselves short if they don’t explore it.
- Item: Evason juggled his lines during the morning skate for Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Eriksson Ek, who had been the third-line center, will be in between Marcus Johansson and Kirill Kaprizov and Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno, who had been the wings on Eriksson Ek’s line, are skating with Nico Sturm. Sturm moves from left wing on the fourth line to center on the third. Victor Rask moves from center to fourth-line left wing with Nick Bonino (demoted from a top six role) and Ryan Hartman (staying put as fourth-line right wing). The first line remains Nick Bjugstad between Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala.
- Reaction: This had to happen. Eriksson Ek has been the Wild’s best center and leads the team with four goals. Yet, Evason had continued to play Kaprizov and Fiala, the Wild’s top two wingers, with other centers. In the Wild’s 2-1 loss to the Kings on Tuesday, Bonino had Johansson and Kaprizov on his wings. Bonino and Bjugstad definitely have roles on this team but neither is a top two center and either Kaprizov or Fiala needed to be put with Eriksson Ek. Kaprizov gets the nod for now. The only thing that’s surprising is that Greenway, who has played well after being challenged by general manager Bill Guerin following last season, wasn’t just left on the other wing with Eriksson Ek. Johansson has been underwhelming in his first seven games with the Wild (one goal) and is looking like a bottom six forward. The move of Rask from center to wing — he somehow ended up between Kaprizov and Fiala when those two were united in the third period Tuesday — probably means he’s a step away from watching games from the press box.