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The Minnesota Vikings finalized a deal to bring in Cleveland Browns executive Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as their next general manager on Wednesday, sparking speculation that a quarterback swap between the two squads could be closer to reality.
The Vikings will be looking for a new head coach this offseason and will likely also be open to getting out from Kirk Cousins‘ massive salary at quarterback to start fresh.
Cousins hasn’t played at an elite level this season but could be a fit for Stefanski’s offense, considering he had one of the best years of his career with the Browns skipper calling plays as the Vikings offensive coordinator in 2019. Cousins made the Pro Bowl, passing for 26 touchdowns to just six interceptions, leading the Vikings to a 10-5 record in his starts.
The 33-year-old QB passed for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. The problem could be his contract, with Cousins due a whopping $35 million next season.
Veteran Browns reporter Tony Grossi of The Land on Demand said he feels like the “dots are being laid” for the trade and laid out the possibilities. With the Browns absorbing about $25 million of Cousins salary — $6 million higher than what Mayfield’s due next season — Grossi assessed the trade value of the Vikings QB as a third-round pick, in addition to a conditional pick that could go as high as the first round.
Browns Have Backed Mayfield But Will Explore Options
There’s no doubt Adofo-Mensah has had conversations with Andrew Berry and Stefanski about Mayfield’s future, which might be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to negotiations.
Publicly, the Browns have backed Mayfield as their quarterback of the future since the season ended, acknowledging that they’d like to see him healthy before making a final call.
“We fully expect Baker to be our starter and bounce back,” Berry told reporters on January 11. “Generally speaking, we are looking forward to Baker obviously getting healthy in the offseason and then putting good work into the spring and with his coaches for having the type of season we know he can have moving forward.”
The question for the Browns would be whether or not Cousins is a significant upgrade over Mayfield when both are healthy. Mayfield passed for 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season but played through a torn labrum that required him to wear a brace on his non-throwing shoulder. He had surgery on January 19 to repair the shoulder.
Browns Don’t View Mayfield as ‘Lame Duck’ QB
It’s usually not a good sign for a quarterback when they get to the fifth year of their rookie deal without an extension, although Mayfield’s situation is a bit different than most due to injury. It would have been hard to imagine after the 2020-21 season that he didn’t have a long-term deal locked up at this point after leading the Browns to the postseason and a Wild Card victory — the franchise’s first playoff win in a quarter-century.
“We have a lot of guys who will have gone into their final [contract] year or something along those lines,” Berry said. “That is not something that really goes into the calculus for us. Every year, you will have guys on expiring deals.”
Berry was asked again about having a “lame duck” quarterback heading into 2022, which he pushed back against.
“I do not know that I would categorize it that way. Again, you have a number of players across positions that are entering the final years of their deals,” Berry said. “That is not something that is really top of mind for me.”