Kirk Cousins is not only a member of the Minnesota Vikings along for the ride, as he is locked in as a franchise quarterback. The marriage became official when the two sides signed a three-year, fully-guaranteed contract worth up to $90 million at the start of free agency in March. The total money is set a $84 million where we stand today, but Cousins can earn himself an extra $2 million per season he takes the Vikings to the Super Bowl, which has been something that has eluded this franchise for much too long for many people's tastes.

Is it that much of an upgrade over what they were able to get out of Case Keenum in 2017? Probably not that much of one if we take into consideration that it was a career year for Keenum and everything just seemed to break right for him. However, Keenum's issues, namely his arm strength, were overshadowed by Pat Shumur's offense and the positions he was put into by the playmakers around him. The football we have seen Cousins play in his career has been good. Perhaps not spectacular, but the numbers are still impressive. He has thrown for 4,000-plus yards in all three seasons that he has been the full-time starter in Washington. The Vikings have had four such seasons in their entire franchise history and it has not happened since 2009 when Brett Favre did it en route to an NFC Championship game appearance.

"But he is not a winner," they also say.

Cousins has a 26-30-1 career record, but that is not entirely on him. His time in Washington was plagued by banged-up offensive lines, no rushing threats and a poor-to-average defense. However, his record when his team scores at least 20 points is 22-9-1 over the last three seasons. The Vikings are 38-7 under Mike Zimmer when they score at least 20 points, including the postseason.

What people do not understand about the Washington Redskins is just how poorly run they are. This was a franchise that never fully put its faith into Cousins and did a poor job surrounding him with the talent that was necessary to take them to the next level. When people look at him in terms of how he performed, it can be best described as a lot of good, some bad and often times frenetic. If that does not sum up the Redskins as a whole, what really does?

Cousins is set to flourish in Minnesota because he has three key things that he has not really had before, the first of which is a truly elite defense. It may not wind up being No. 1 again in 2018, but the unit the Vikings have on that side of the ball is one of the best in all of football and has Zimmer's fingerprints all over it. What the staff has built in four seasons-plus is nothing short of impressive at every level of the defense. There is no reason to believe that they still will not be good for years to come, especially as they continue to explore upgrades and lock up core pieces.

The second, and most important reason of all perhaps, is the support he will have from the coaching staff and front office. Cousins hinted as much in his opening press conference when he mentioned the commitment the Vikings are making to winning and the chip he has always had on his shoulder. The Wilfs are doing everything they can to build a winner and it shows in two state-of-the-art buildings in U.S. Bank Stadium and the newly-opened TCO Performance Center in Eagan. They were willing to do that and also pay a premium for a franchise quarterback on the open market. Zimmer may not like the idea of what the cost was, especially if it comes at the expense of losing a piece on defense, but he can rest easy knowing there will not be questions every week about who the starting quarterback will be. At the end of the day, he will get over the price tag.

Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski could be the two biggest factors in how the Cousins era begins and progresses. DeFilippo is one of the game's bright offensive minds and was able to develop Carson Wentz and Nick Foles in Philadelphia and has garnered head coaching interest from teams in the past. Should that be the case again and he leaves after 2018, Stefanski is the logical choice to replace him. And that is good for Cousins, too. He and Stefanski have a relationship dating back to the Senior Bowl in 2012 when he was being scouted out of Michigan State.

The Vikings offensive scheme under DeFilippo probably does not wind up changing all that much, as he said the first thing he wants to do is see what worked for the team and build off of that. With the likes of Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray surrounding Cousins, this has a chance to be an offense that scratches the top 10, perhaps even the top five, once again.

Cousins' biggest issue may be his decision making when things break down. He has some of the worst-looking interceptions in the league when he panics, and Keenum was the exact opposite of that in 2017. Keenum's mobility and composure kept a lot of plays alive for the Vikings despite having limited arm strength.

However, piece of mind and finally being comfortable is the third and final thing that could make him a perfect fit in Minnesota. The mistakes he makes can be coached, but finally being in a spot where you know you are locked in should pay huge dividends.


It would not be a surprise to see this somewhat payoff the way that it did for the New Orleans Saints when they signed Drew Brees in 2006. Brees was good, but not considered a great quarterback, though he did have some health concerns. Cousins is durable and rarely shows up on the injury report, but it would not be shocking at all to see him play his best football in purple and gold and establish himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

The ingredients are there for this to work for both Cousins and the Vikings, and he has no intentions of leaving when his three-year deal is up. The most important trait that a quarterback can have is character, and he brings that to a locker room that needed a final piece at the position so they can move forward as a title contender.