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With Justin Jefferson injured, the Kirk Cousins trade talk is back

With receiver Justin Jefferson reportedly heading for injured reserve, the talk has returned about the Vikings trading quarterback Kirk Cousins.

It came up a couple of weeks ago in conjunction with the Jets, even though there was no reason to think the Jets would do it, there was no reason to think the Vikings would do it, and no reason to think Cousins would want it.

It’s back now because the Vikings, at 1-4, are quite possibly done for 2023 — and because Cousins has no contract beyond this season. The Vikings seem to be ready to move on from Cousins in 2024, and Cousins quite possibly is counting the days to his next foray into free agency.

It’s one thing to shout into the void, “The Vikings should trade Kirk Cousins!” and another for a trade to actually happen. First, there’s only three weeks left to do a deal; the window closes on the Tuesday after Week 8. The Vikings have three games to play between now and then (Bears, 49ers, Packers). If they’re 1-7, they’ll be done. If they’re 4-4, they’re not. If they’re 3-5, is that enough to pull the plug on the season, with nine games left?

And if Cousins is traded, who takes over? Nick Mullens? Jaren Hall? Carson Wentz? The Vikings need to field a team with a straight face. Trading Cousins with nine games to play could make that difficult.

For a trade to happen, there also has to be a team that wants Cousins — and a package the Vikings wouldn’t refuse. What would that take? A first-round pick? Who would give up that much for a half-season rental? Unless that team also plans to pay Cousins his next contract — and does so on the way through the door — that’s too much to give up.

Here’s the most important point. Why would Cousins do it? He’s 12 games away from getting another giant bag of cash. Why uproot his life and join a new team with a new coaching staff and new players and new everything, when he can stay in Minnesota, keep compiling stats, and hit the open market in March?

At this point, who would be in position to placate the Vikings and persuade Cousins to accept a change of scenery? Look through the standings. The Jets don’t have the draft capital, and Aaron Rodgers is talking about returning this year. Beyond the Jets, who else is there? The Falcons? Barring an injury to a starting quarterback on a high-end contender, there’s no one.

But that’s still the thing to watch. Week 6, Week 7, Week 8. I won’t name names or teams. But a season-ending injury to certain starters on certain teams in the next three weeks could be the only thing to make it happen.

Without something like that happening, it’s not happening.