The question surrounding the Washington Football Team and the Minnesota Vikings, “You like that?” These were the three famous words Kirk Cousins yelled after Washington’s record-setting comeback victory versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015.
In 2016 and 2017, Washington played a game of chicken with Cousins in a prolonged contract dispute. After playing on the franchise tag twice, Cousins signed a massive three-year deal for $84 million with the Vikings. A few years later, Minnesota rewarded him again with another massive contract.
Fast forward to 2020. Cousins is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL and the Vikings have the same record as his former team. However, Washington is in the early stages of rebuilding and many expected the Vikings to win the NFC North.
Should Washington have committed to Cousins, giving him the fully-guaranteed contract he wanted? Here are three reasons why Washington made the right decision to dump Cousins.
Washington flush with cap space, Vikings in cap turmoil
Washington has the seventh-most cap space in the NFL and a plethora of young talent on rookie contracts. On the other hand, the Vikings are in a financial hole facing an offseason with -$14 million in effective cap space, per OvertheCap.com.
Both of these teams are 1-5, but Washington is still somehow in the hunt to win the NFC East while the Vikings need to pull off a different form of the “Minneapolis Miracle” in order to make the playoffs.
Cousins is a better quarterback than Kyle Allen and Dwayne Haskins, but his albatross contract negates any added value he offers from a talent perspective. Washington’s future is brighter due to its financial breathing room, which is the result of letting their former quarterback walk.
Kirk Cousins’ departure opened the door for Ron Rivera
Washington’s culture was one of the worst in the NFL if not the worst. This was not Cousins’ fault by any means. However, if Cousins were to stay on a huge contract with Washington, they would have been in win-now mode, and most likely be in the playoff hunt every year.
However, despite the success with Alex Smith before his gruesome injury, this team struggled. In an addition to off-field problems, Washington changed their name and completely revamped its front office and coaching staff.
Rivera has made significant changes to this team’s culture in his first season. Washington might miss the playoffs this year, but the departure of Cousins led to the arrival of a new regime, something this organization needed even more than an average quarterback.
Washington recognized Cousins’ overrated talent
It is hard letting go of a quarterback who threw for almost 5,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Cousins made the Pro Bowl in 2016 with some impressive stats. Under those circumstances, especially when an organization is desperate for something stable, Washington easily could have caved to Cousins’ contract demands.
However, Washington knew Cousins was not elite. While he was a talented passer, his abilities were likely overrated. For once, Washington made the right decision by closing its wallet.
Now, everyone has had a few years to gain perspective. Washington made the right decision and it seemed difficult to understand when Cousins was leading the Vikings to the playoffs, as his former team sat in purgatory.
It wasn’t quarterback play that led the Vikings to their winning ways. As 2020 shows, Cousins can’t lead a team without significant help and his contract prevents that from happening. While he is getting older and his skills diminish slightly, the Vikings will remain tied to him because of that contract.