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Zulgad’s Roundup: Here’s why the Browns could be the perfect landing spot for Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) leaves the field following an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Minneapolis, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. The Vikings defeated the Seahawks 30-17. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Will Kirk Cousins be playing his last game as a Viking on Sunday in the regular-season finale against Chicago at U.S. Bank Stadium? That certainly is a possibility with the quarterback set to carry a $45 million salary-cap hit in the final season of his contract in 2023.

The Vikings could give Cousins a third contract extension in order to decrease his cap hit, but Cousins has made a habit of making sure he gets the majority of his money guaranteed. In other words, more cap problems would be right around the corner. The other option would be for the Vikings to trade Cousins with a post-June 1 date, meaning they would save $35 million to the cap and carry “only” $10 million in dead money for 2023.

One of the most logical landing spots would be the Cleveland Browns, who appear to be on the outs with Baker Mayfield as he enters the fifth and final year of his rookie contract.

Cleveland.com reported on Wednesday night that there was alleged friction between Mayfield and coach Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski was a longtime Vikings assistant and served as offensive coordinator in 2020 with Cousins as his quarterback. A reunion could make a lot of sense for a Browns team that was in the playoffs last year, but will miss the postseason this year and is 7-9 heading into Sunday’s finale against Cincinnati.

Cousins, 33, would have to be on board with a trade and be willing to do an extension with his new team in order to bring down his cap number. But if Cousins wanted to play for Stefanski, that could be worked out.

Cousins passed for 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns in 15 games during his season with Stefanski calling the plays. Those were his lowest totals in the four years he has been with the Vikings, but Minnesota did make its only playoff appearance with Cousins that season and his passer rating of 107.4 was his best while wearing Purple.

The Browns and Stefanski will be under pressure to win next season and Cousins could be considered an ideal fit. Cleveland has one of the better offensive lines in the NFL (when healthy), and a run game that would enable Stefanski to call plenty of play action for Cousins.

Cousins would seem more likely to be moved if the Vikings’ shake-up includes hiring a new general manager. So what would Minnesota want from Cleveland? The blueprint for a potential trade exists. After last season, the Detroit Lions sent quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023, a third-round pick in 2021 and quarterback Jared Goff.

The theory was that the Rams dealt one first-round pick for Stafford, but added the second so the Lions would be willing to take Goff’s contract off their hands. One would have to assume the Vikings wouldn’t have a lot of interest in Mayfield, but if he had a first-round pick attached to him as he entered a season in which he carried an $18.9 million cap hit, it’s likely a new GM and coach would be willing to take a look for one season in order to gain more draft capital and substantially more cap space.

The additional first-round picks could be used to move up in the 2023 draft to take a quarterback who would be the long-term solution for the Vikings.

  • Great point made by a Twitter follower after I pointed out that failing to fire Zimmer could result in fans not renewing their season tickets for 2022. Many of the season tickets at U.S. Bank Stadium were purchased with a one-time Personal Seat License fee — the Vikings call it a Builders License Fee —  and fans don’t get that back if they drop their tickets. The actual tickets are a separate investment. In order to get their money back for the Builders License Fee, fans have to find a buyer. Otherwise, they can transfer it and lose the money. The SBL seating fee ranges from $500 to $3,700. The SBL club fee goes from $3,500 to $9,500.
  • Zimmer told reporters on Wednesday that he plans to play his regulars Sunday and won’t try to get younger players on the field. There’s a chance Zimmer didn’t want to share his plans, but not getting younger guys playing time and enabling them to put something on film makes no sense. There’s no reason not to give Kellen Mond some snaps at quarterback, or allow third-round guard Wyatt Davis to finally get on the field. The Bears are 6-10 and coach Matt Nagy likely will be fired on Monday. This game is nothing more than an exhibition and not taking advantage of that is just being stubborn.
  • Kyle Rudolph hasn’t had a great season in his first year with the New York Giants, but that didn’t stop the former Vikings tight end from praising Giants quarterback Daniel Jones this week during an appearance on WFAN Radio. Asked if Jones is more talented than any of the quarterbacks he played with in Minnesota, Rudolph said:  “Absolutely, I’ve said that since day one. He’s certainly the most talented guy that I’ve ever played with, and I’ve certainly played with a lot. Jake Fromm was my 14th over the 11 years that I’ve been in the league. I’ve certainly had my fair share of starting quarterbacks in this league and I’ve seen a lot in this league. I look back to guys like a healthy Sam Bradford, who is one of the best that I’ve ever played with. The ability he had to put the ball in places, and DJ has that, but he also has the athleticism piece to where he can make things happen.” Evidently, Rudolph didn’t think too highly of Cousins.
  • The 11th-ranked Iowa State men’s basketball team is 10-1 overall and 1-1 in the Big 12 conference after beating No. 25 Texas Tech, 51-47, on Wednesday night in Ames. Former Gopher Gabe Kalscheur had nine points and three rebounds in 27 minutes. Kalscheur is averaging 10.2 points in 14 games this season. He is shooting 22.7 percent from three-point range. It’s the fourth consecutive season in which his shooting percentage on three-pointers has fallen. Last year with the Gophers, Kalscheur shot 24.5 percent in 21 games. That figure was 34.1 percent in 31 games in 2019-20 and 41 percent in 36 games in 2018-19.