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    Vikings’ Kirk Cousins is the best QB available in free agency

    We’re more than six weeks from the start of the new NFL league year and almost three months yet from the NFL Draft. The Super Bowl hasn’t even happened.

    And yet here I am, falling down a rabbit hole again — trying to get an early read on how a complex set of puzzle pieces might fit together when it comes to 32 teams and their potential starting quarterbacks.

    For several years, the answer for the Vikings has been simple: Kirk Cousins is the starter. This year it is far more complicated for the Vikings, and the intricate offseason they must navigate is part of a similarly tricky picture involving several other QB-needy teams — something I talked about on Wednesday’s Daily Delivery podcast.

    Three things are important when trying to discern what the Vikings might be best off doing, and they all combine to inform this idea: It’s not always what you want to do that dictates actions in sports, but rather what the market dictates is the best solution.

    First, what is Cousins’ place on the free agent market? ESPN places Cousins No. 3 on its list of Top 50 available free agents, and he is one of just two quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield at No. 13 is the other) on the entire list.

    I don’t know if I’d have Cousins quite that high, but there is no quibble with the idea that he is the best QB in free agency. He will have suitors.

    Second, which teams might have both interest in and cap room for Cousins? I counted somewhere between eight and 10 teams that could be in the market for a new QB (including the Vikings). But only a specific few seem like real possibilities to go after Cousins: the Falcons, Raiders and Vikings.

    All three have enough cap space to make it work. More importantly, all could feel like they are close enough to winning to pursue an expensive veteran QB.

    Third, how are the other quarterback-needy teams likely to address the position? The big problem for the Vikings when it comes to taking a franchise QB in the 2024 draft is that the teams picking 1-3 all need QBs. The consensus is that the Bears will take Caleb Williams, followed by Washington taking Drake Maye and the Patriots getting Jayden Daniels.

    It would be much easier to imagine the Vikings trading into the top three using their No. 11 overall pick and a variety of future picks if even one of those top three slots wasn’t occupied by a QB-needy team.

    A team like the Raiders or Broncos might try to fill a potential hole by going after Bears QB Justin Fields in a trade. Tampa Bay seems likely to re-sign Mayfield.

    Quarterbacks like Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix or Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy will almost certainly be available when the Vikings choose at 11. They could also trade down and still get one of those three — or perhaps even wait until the second round at pick 42.

    In that scenario, one could imagine the Vikings re-signing Cousins for two years while also investing in a QB of the future. They also could absorb the loss of Cousins in free agency and add a one-year bridge veteran to compete with a high pick for the starter job next season.

    It might all depend on how much the Vikings like the next tier of QBs in the draft — and how much any one team (Vikings or otherwise) likes Cousins.

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