The free agent NFL quarterbacks from this offseason will forever be intertwined.
Vikings fans will be focused on Kirk Cousins, to be sure, but they'll also be looking sideways to see how — assuming all reports are true — Case Keenum fares in Denver, what Sam Bradford does in Arizona, how Teddy Bridgewater makes out with the Jets and what Drew Brees continues to mean to the Saints.
Those Vikings fans who became enamored for a day with the idea that Brees could leave New Orleans for the #BoldNorth might particularly view Cousins as some sort of consolation prize, even if he was the primary target all along.
Those folks might take some comfort in this: There are reasons to believe Cousins is the next Brees. Their stories into their late 20s are very similar, at least.
Brees, a former Big Ten QB at Purdue, was drafted by the Chargers in the second round. He spent five productive but uneven seasons in San Diego, compiling a 30-28 record as a starter with 80 touchdowns, 53 interceptions, one playoff appearance (a one-and-done in which he played well in a close loss) and one Pro Bowl appearance.
There were questions about Brees — including an injury concern — and the Chargers allowed him to reach free agency heading into the 2006 season. He settled on the Saints after drawing strong interest from other suitors, including Miami. In New Orleans, Brees became a franchise QB and future Hall of Famer, leading the Saints to six playoff appearances and a Super Bowl in 2009.
Brees has been held up as the rare example of a coveted QB in his prime — he was 27 when he signed with the Saints — reaching free agency. It has been said, in fact, that Cousins (age 29) is the first QB to really fit that description since Brees a dozen years ago. And the similarities don't end there.
Cousins is also a former Big Ten quarterback (Michigan State). He spent six productive but uneven seasons in Washington, compiling a 26-30-1 record as a starter with 99 touchdowns, 55 interceptions, one playoff start (a one-and-done in which he played well in a loss) and one Pro Bowl appearance.
Washington and Cousins couldn't get together on a long-term deal. He played two seasons under a franchise tag before Washington traded for Alex Smith and let him reach free agency. He appears to have settled on the Vikings after having numerous suitors.
Now, this is not all to suggest that Cousins will go on to have a career with the Vikings on par with what Brees has had with the Saints. Projecting a Hall of Fame trajectory is neither a good nor fair thing.
But it is instructive to remember that Brees was once in a very similar place in his career. And it's not crazy to think Cousins could become a long-term franchise quarterback for one team even if another didn't view him that way.