Should Titans Roll in Levis? Is it time to worry in San Fran?
Should the Titans trade Ryan Tannehill to the Vikings and go all-in on Will Levis? Mackenzie Salmon of Sports Seriously “overreacted” in Week 8.
It wasn’t that long ago that speculation centered on whether or not the Minnesota Vikings should try to move QB Kirk Cousins before the NFL trade deadline, which expires at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Now that the script has been completely flipped, the Vikes have surprisingly turned to the outside linebacker position to replace Cousins, who injured his Achilles in Sunday’s win against the Green Bay Packers — the injury that will likely end his season.
Cousins, who had a full no-trade clause until he played out the final season of his contract, was likely never going anywhere — New York Jets or otherwise — and recent weeks have shown why. Whatever flaws he has — namely, a general lack of success in high-profile games — he has been among the more consistent and durable passers in the league since emerging as Washington’s starter in 2015. He has made no fewer than 15 starts in one season of… a streak of reliability that will no doubt end now.
And the weather is such a shame.
Not only did Cousins push the Vikings back to .500 with their third straight win after a 1-4 start, Minnesota, the eventual NFC North champions a year ago, was selected as the NFC’s third wild-card team by the time the action on sunday ended up. And while the Vikes may have gotten away with Cousins falling before the trade deadline, they don’t even have two days to complete a trade if that’s the route taken by GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and HC Kevin O’ Connell.
(And there’s no clear Plan B QB on the roster. Rookie Jaron Hall sat out Sunday. Veteran Nick Mullens went on injured reserve with a back injury earlier this month but could return as soon as Week 10. Another journeyman Sean Mannion, who started a game late in the 2021 season when the unvaccinated Cousins was placed on the COVID-19 list is on the practice squad.)
So Minnesota shouldn’t make a move. Still, expecting a green rookie and/or two career backups with a combined NFL record of 5-15 to sustain this current postseason push for nine more games seems like a significant stretch. So… who might be among the alternatives?
Nick Foles: He didn’t look great in two starts for the Indianapolis Colts last season, and maybe he’s perfectly content never to play less well again. But he has a well-earned reputation as a star player, best known for his 2017 playoff heroics that culminated in Super Bowl 52 MVP honors — which happened to be in Minnesota.
Matt Ryan: The 2016 league MVP also hasn’t looked great in his 12 starts for the Colts in 2022. Ryan said he has no interest in leaving the CBS broadcast booth to potentially join the Jets after Aaron Rodgers was injured in week 1. However, he clearly hasn’t completely closed the door on retirement.
Carson Wentz: It’s not like the free agent QB market is loaded with talent at the end of October, but he’s probably the best available — at least from a physical standpoint. And playing close to his roots in North Dakota will likely be appealing to Wentz. The question is whether the Vikings have any appetite for the roller coaster ride he invites.
Jacoby Brissett, Washington Commanders: He has never led a team to the postseason. But he’s almost universally popular in every locker room he’s graced, has 48 NFL starts on his resume and is under contract for a team that appears on the verge of a trade. A solid option.
Andy Dalton, Carolina Panthers: He has 167 NFL starts, including playoffs, and has developed into a top-tier backup in recent years. And while his ability to mentor rookie QB Bryce Young is certainly valuable to Carolina, the trade rate may be more important to a Panthers team that spent so much draft capital to acquire Young. Dalton, 36, is under contract through next season, which, given Cousins’ injury, could have added appeal to Minnesota.
Trey Lance, Dallas Cowboys: The No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft (by the San Francisco 49ers) is clearly very talented — albeit inexperienced given his limited reps in both college and the NFL. He is a native of Minnesota and could be an especially intriguing option for the Vikings given Cousins’ uncertain physical and fiscal future. Still, considering the Cowboys traded a fourth-rounder to the Niners to acquire Lance’s services before the season, Adofo-Mensah knows the level of what could be a relatively steep price is beginning.
Case Keenum, Houston Texas: It’s hard not to like this one. Currently the third-stringer behind rookie C.J. Stroud, Keenum led the Vikings on a magical run to the NFC title game in 2017 – arguably his best pro season. He’s also under contract through next year and worked with O’Connell when both were in Washington in 2019, meaning Keenum’s learning curve in this book would theoretically be flatter than most. And is Houston really going to hold him hostage, given that there probably isn’t much more to teach Stroud?
Davis Mills, Texans: He’s Stroud’s primary backup, and the 2021 third-rounder has played far more NFL football (26 starts) than fellow draft pick Lance — and under very difficult circumstances in Houston. Mills is another option who could also be a replacement in 2024.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans: He’s currently out with an ankle injury, and the remainder of his $27 million base salary is sure to be a source of consternation, even though Tannehill’s deal expires after the season. Still, he has Pro Bowl pedigree, led Tennessee to a No. 1 seed in the playoffs even two years ago, and his rebuild could fit the bill well — giving him time to learn the system while Mannion or Mullens hold down the fort in the short term. It’s worth considering whether the finances can be ironed out — especially since rookie Will Levis’ performance on Sunday suggests Tannehill may have already played his last game in Nashville.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.