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Cousins or Keenum: What's the debate?

There is a segment of Vikings fans who seem to not want nice things.

I believe it's a small segment, albeit a fairly vocal one on Twitter and talk radio.

As I write this, it is Wednesday morning and nothing is official yet with NFL free agency, but it has been widely reported that former Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to the Vikings is a done deal. The cost is expected to be a three year, fully-guaranteed contract worth about $84 million. That is big money but on a relatively short deal in terms of years.

If Cousins performs at his current level or continues to improve, the Vikings just found a 29-year-old top-10 quarterback in the league who could run this team for 10 years. Even if it doesn't somehow work, the team has not tied up money over a long period of time.

I believe head coach Mike Zimmer is a huge part of how good the Vikings defense has become. If signing a franchise quarterback means having to let go of a top defensive player and fill that spot with a young player through the draft, so be it.

The Vikings just went out and got the biggest name in free agency at the most important position in all of sports. This feels like a good thing, though there are those who believe sticking with Case Keenum on a cheaper deal would have been a smart move.

Keenum played admirably on the way to leading the Vikings to the NFC championship game. His 22 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, along with a 67.6 completion percentage were all career numbers. How can anyone be sure those numbers will all of a sudden become the new norm for a guy who had never thrown 10 touchdown passes in any of his previous four seasons as a backup or part-time starter?

Keenum was handed the keys to a Cadillac last year. Rarely did he have to lead the team from behind with one of the NFL's top defenses stifling opponents up until the playoffs. In two postseason games, Keenum's completion percentage dropped to 60.2 with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

I watched every game last season and the question I kept asking myself was, "Can Case Keenum really win a Super Bowl?" It felt like the answer was no unless the defense always played great, which it obviously didn't in Philadelphia.

What if the miracle touchdown catch from Stefon Diggs would have never happened against the Saints? I have a feeling the conversation about who should be the Vikings quarterback would look a lot different had this team gone one-and-done in the playoffs.

In Cousins, they are getting a guy who has completed 67 percent of his passes for 13,176 yards and 85 touchdowns to 36 interceptions in his three years as a full time starter. Those are top-10 QB numbers in the league.

The greatest argument against Cousins is that he isn't a winner. He has a career record of 26-31-1 and is 0-1 in the playoffs, but that's playing with one of the worst defenses in the NFL over the last three seasons.

Cousins isn't flashy in the way many people like their quarterbacks. He's not a former number one overall pick. He was taken 102nd overall in the fourth round by Washington in 2012 despite setting almost every quarterback record in the books during his four years at Michigan State.

Want intangibles? Read the Sports Illustrated piece on Cousins from Nov. 29, 2017 entitled "Kirk Cousins is as nerdy as he seems, which makes him an ideal franchise quarterback." This is a guy taking every possible step to make sure he becomes one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and the Vikings just signed him.

Put Cousins with a top-five defense in the league with Dalvin Cook taking handoffs and Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Diggs to throw to? As a Vikings fan, I'm all in on seeing how that plays out.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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