Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where we can’t believe there’s a good Thursday night football game, either. Let’s get to it:
*ESPN’s Bill Barnwell takes a deep dive into an interesting question I’ve thought a decent amount about over the last few years, particularly as it has pertained to the Vikings: Is the cost-control of a young quarterback on a rookie-scale contract so valuable that it is preferable to having an above-average but expensive QB in his prime? And to take it a step further, is that value so great that teams should constantly cycle through QBs every four years and start over before a QB they have developed gets too expensive?
On the first point, there is an interesting contrast right now between the two teams playing tonight: the Rams and Vikings. The Rams have third-year QB Jared Goff counting about $7.6 million against their cap this year (and about $27 million total over his first four years). The Vikings have Kirk Cousins counting for $84 million guaranteed over the next three years, including $24 million this year.
The Vikings have been creative with salaries and were able to keep their strong defense largely intact even while signing Cousins, but at some point his deal figures to stress them into making tough salary decisions. The Rams, with far more money to play with because they have a starting QB who makes relatively little money, not only kept their fearsome defense intact but added to it significantly in the offseason with extensions and signings.
As Barnwell points out, the Seahawks (with Russell Wilson) won a Super Bowl and should have won another using this model, while the Eagles did the same last year (even after having to turn to Nick Foles after Carson Wentz was hurt). In the modern NFL, it seems as though either that model or paying heavily for a truly elite QB like Tom Brady are very viable title-winning options.
From a football standpoint, that was of course one of the truly devastating things about Teddy Bridgewater’s injury. The Vikings missed out on years 3 and 4 (and potentially a reasonably priced fifth-year option) of Bridgewater’s relatively inexpensive rookie deal in 2016 and 2017 while he was hurt and instead had to devote cap space to Sam Bradford’s much more expensive deal. That impacted their ability to make other meaningful upgrades to, I don’t know, maybe the offensive line?
The Vikings could have made a version of that decision this offseason and re-signed Bridgewater on a low-cost deal while using money saved to bolster other areas. They chose stability with Cousins, and it’s hard to really blame them. That model could certainly work, as there are instances of above-average QBs like Cousins excelling in the postseason with a strong supporting cast around them (like Eli Manning twice in New York or Joe Flacco in Baltimore) on the way to a Super Bowl.
But as Barnwell points out, Baltimore has been hamstrung by Flacco’s rich contract ever since winning the Super Bowl.
As for the Rams? They will have to decide in a couple years whether Goff is worth an extension or if, as Barnwell notes, the more prudent move is to draft his eventual replacement soon and keep cycling through young, cheap QB labor. It’s risky, but then again so is devoting so much cap space to a QB who might not be worth it both in terms of performance and what it means for the rest of the roster.
*Brian Dozier got off to a hot start with the Dodgers after they acquired him from the Twins at the trade deadline, but he’s been in a hideous slump lately. Dozier is just 4 for his last 52, with most of those at bats coming in September as the Dodgers have tried to lock up a playoff spot. He was on the bench both Tuesday and Wednesday.
*This Twitter thread is an example of the Internet being good.