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Outcome of Cousins decision to determine who feels pressure with Vikings

Instead of frantically hitting the refresh button on the Star Tribune web site and other outlets in the next few days while looking for any new information on the Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins, would you instead join me in this big-picture thought exercise?

As I (and most of us) see it, there are three possible outcomes with the Vikings and Cousins, and the framework of which path the Vikings are headed down should be known within a week. They will:

*Agree to a new deal with Cousins sometime between now and the start of the new league year next Wednesday afternoon, with terms that make it likely they still draft their quarterback of the future in April.

*Agree to a new deal with Cousins, but with terms that make it unlikely they will draft a QB in April.

*Let Cousins become a free agent, at which point it is extremely unlikely they will sign him because they will already be carrying $28.5 million in dead money from his past deal on their 2024 salary cap. Atlanta is emerging as a real contender for Cousins in this scenario, and in the negotiation period that starts Monday they could make him an offer that leads the Vikings to walk away.

The Vikings could sign Cousins sometime before Monday, but it is likely he is going to want the leverage of a true offer from the Falcons or other teams in any decision he makes.

So as we wait for a few days in limbo mode, an interesting thing to ponder — as I talked about on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast — is how Cousins staying or going would impact the two biggest Vikings decisionmakers.

My take is this:

If the Vikings sign Cousins to a multi-year deal, the pressure will be squarely on GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to build a better roster around him. His missteps in upgrading the overall talent of the roster — which he has acknowledged — will be magnified, and how he addresses defensive positions of need in the draft and free agency will gain extra scrutiny given that the offense would be running it back with a lot of talent.

If the Vikings let Cousins walk — a move that would mean they are almost certainly going to sign a one-year bridge quarterback and draft their QB of the future in the first round — the pressure would shift to head coach Kevin O'Connell. Yes, it would be Adofo-Mensah turning in the draft card. But it would be O'Connell's hand-picked QB in the long-term and he would be tasked with getting a good year from a veteran in the short-term. It would be a new level of proving his offensive chops without the security of having Cousins.

Now, if the Vikings sign Cousins to a short-term deal (say, two years but with a plausible escape hatch after one) AND still draft his likely successor, I suppose the burden could be more shared between Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell.

Regardless, the stage is set for the biggest decision either man has faced yet with the Vikings.

*In the course of thinking about Vikings QBs, I contrasted Cousins' stats from a year ago with the three other QBs who started for the Vikings (veterans Joshua Dobbs and Nick Mullens, plus rookie Jaren Hall).

Here is the comparison, keeping in mind of course that if the Vikings go a different direction than Cousins in 2024 they will start the year with a better QB plan than the one they were forced into last year after his injury:

Cousins (eight stats): 2,331 passing yards. 18 TD passes. 5 INTs. 103.8 passer rating. 4-4 record.

Other Vikings QBs (nine starts between Dobbs, Mullens and Hall): 2,369 passing yards. 12 TD passes, 14 INTs. 81.6 passer rating. 3-6 record.

*Also on Wednesday's podcast, I chatted with Star Tribune Wild beat writer Sarah McLellan about Friday's NHL trade deadline. They are unlikely to make any blockbuster moves, but pending free agents could be on the move.

*As the Gophers women's basketball team prepares to open play Wednesday night at the Big Ten Tournament at Target Center, Kent Youngblood has a good overview of a season that nosedived after Mara Braun's injury.

*On Thursday's podcast, Star Tribune Timberwolves writer Chris Hine will join me as we try to figure out how to solve the Wolves' late-game woes on offense.