It’s hard to think of a more optimistic time in Minnesota sports than right now. The Twins are coming off a playoff appearance and are near the start of a promising season. The Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game and have improved their roster at the start of the offseason. The Timberwolves and Wild look like they’ll reach the postseason.
On top of that, Minnesota has become a destination for star free agents, and the arrival of Kirk Cousins last week as the new Vikings quarterback might have been the biggest free-agent signing in state history.
Cousins talked in-depth at his news conference about what it means to come to Minnesota, knowing that only one outcome is expected — a Super Bowl championship.
“All I can do is do what is right in front of me. I can’t win the Super Bowl today,” Cousins said. “I can do a press conference to talk about a contract and then go from there. What I’m looking forward to is getting to know teammates over the next few weeks, reaching out to them, building relationships.
“Hopefully being able to spend some time with them and then get to work April 16th with the organization. That is where my focus lays, and from there we’ll build and have those conversations down the road.”
Cousins said one of the draws to come to the Vikings was the chance to work with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.
Cousins said everyone in the NFL recognizes the work DeFilippo has done with quarterbacks.
“Well, first of all, when you coach the potential MVP of the league [Carson Wentz], if not for getting hurt, and then you coach the other quarterback [Nick Foles] to a Super Bowl MVP, I know that about him. That’s certainly a ringing endorsement,” Cousins said. “Love what they did offensively in Philadelphia. I know he has a West Coast background, both at his days in Cleveland and Oakland, and before that. I’m thrilled to get to work with an offensive mind like that.”
Cousins’ career has been marked by extremely impressive statistics but also a lack of wins, with only one postseason appearance with the Redskins.
But he thinks the Vikings will give him more offensive weapons than he has had in the past.
“So excited about what Stefon [Diggs] can do, what Adam Thielen can do, Kyle Rudolph,” Cousins said. “The list goes on and on, and I intend to throw to the running backs out of the backfield, so I intend to spread the ball around, get a lot of guys involved, and be a distributor. … I do intend to have a large impact on games being that the ball is in my hands so much, [but] I am an extension of the guys around me.”
The sports world is taking notice of the team the Vikings are building with Cousins.
Here’s what ESPN.com writer Mike Clay wrote this week: “With Cousins in-house, a terrific running game, a trio of targets, a serviceable offensive line and one of the league’s best defenses, Minnesota sports one of the NFL’s top rosters. The Vikings are the current favorites in the NFC North and a strong contender to get back to the NFC Championship Game.”
And it’s not just about Cousins. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer talked another big addition in free-agent defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. You have to wonder if the Vikings see similarities between Richardson and their signing of Linval Joseph, whom the Vikings signed in 2014.
Joseph was also a high draft pick who had shown flashes of ability with the Giants but hadn’t reached his full potential until he joined the Vikings. Joseph had averaged 44 tackles and two sacks per season in four years with the Giants. In four years with the Vikings, he has averaged 62 tackles and three sacks per year and reached the Pro Bowl the past two seasons.
“Sheldon is the 13th player picked in the  draft and [was] the rookie of the year,” Zimmer said. “He’s a guy that has all the traits we’re looking for. He has strength and size and quickness. We felt like he was disruptive getting the quarterback off his spot, but we feel like we can help him a little bit more with the pass rush and some things we do.
“Also [defensive line coach] Andre Patterson does a great job with defensive linemen in the pass rush. I think he can use his hands better. I think there are some things we can teach him to try and make him continue to get better. But the biggest thing is he has all the traits we’re looking for. He has quickness. He can run. He has strength. He just didn’t finish on the quarterback very well, which we feel we can help him [with] a lot.”
Similarity to Keenum
Meanwhile, Trevor Siemian is the second quarterback the Vikings have acquired from the Broncos in the past two seasons. They signed Kyle Sloter from their practice squad last year.
Siemian’s career statistics are similar to Case Keenum’s numbers before he joined the Vikings last year.
In three seasons, Siemian has gone 13-11, completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 5,686 yards and had 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions for a 79.9 passer rating.
Keenum, in four seasons with the Texans and Rams before joining the Vikings, had a 9-15 record, completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 5,224 yards, 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions for a 78.4 passer rating.
White still waiting
Former Wolves forward Kevin Love recently said he had a panic attack during an NBA game with the Cavaliers. The league continues to work with players on mental health issues.
But Royce White, the former Hopkins five-star recruit and first-round draft pick who waged a losing battle with the NBA and the Houston Rockets over his anxiety disorder, told Yahoo Sports in a wide-ranging discussion that he doesn’t think things will change.
“I believe in order for true progress to happen, there has to be genuine care,” he said. “Mental health is the holy grail of human achievement. It is the holy grail, and the stakes of mental health are far greater than we care to realize or acknowledge. If we let this conversation be sensationalized, it may be the last thing we do sanely.”
White is playing in the National Basketball League of Canada, where he was MVP last year. He’s averaging a league-leading 24.7 points to go along with 9.0 rebounds per game for the London Lightning.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org