Charley Walters: A postseason return for Vikings could result in another Kirk Cousins payday

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·11 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Kirk Cousins begins this season with a guaranteed two-year contract for $70 million. If the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback plays well this year (say 11 victories), the Vikings might have to guarantee him even another extension that could be worth $45 million for 2024.

Regardless, even if Cousins, who turns 34 next month, misses the playoffs for a third straight season, he’s in fine contractual shape. He’s guaranteed $30 million in 2023 and has a no-trade clause. Missing the playoffs again, though, could cause the Vikings to trade up in the draft for a QB.

Cousins wasn’t as responsible for last season’s 8-9 finish as was a horrible defense. It still looks like the Vikings, moving to a 3-4 defense, need another hefty (300-plus pounds) defensive lineman. The team has no quality defensive tackle backups.

It’s clear the Vikings figured after last season they wouldn’t be able to acquire anyone better than Cousins, so they extended him. Cousins’ $35 million average salary ranks ninth among NFL QBs for 2022, tying him with the Broncos’ Russell Wilson. Last season, he was 13th in NFL QB Index rankings, per nfl.com.

A good guess is that the Vikings this season finish 9-8.

The over/under sacks number for Danielle Hunter this season is 11, sixth-most projected in the NFL, per BetOnline.ag.

Ex-Vikings GM Rick Spielman will be a studio analyst as an NFL draft expert for the Big Ten Network this season.

Max Meyer, 23, the former Gophers pitcher from Woodbury, isn’t expected to pitch again for 12 to 14 months after upcoming Tommy John surgery in Los Angeles. The right-hander, who suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament against Pittsburgh in his second major league start, will rehab at the Marlins’ spring base in Jupiter, Fla. He’ll still collect major league service time.

Nearly 25 percent of major league pitchers have had Tommy John surgery. Meyer, who received a $6.7 million signing bonus as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft, has a 97-mph fastball and 91-mph slider. However, it may have been arm pronation on a new changeup that caused the ligament tear.

Drew Gilbert, the former Stillwater star who hit .362 with 11 home runs and 70 RBIs in 58 games for Tennessee as its center fielder last spring, last week received a $2.5 million signing bonus as the Astros’ first-round draft pick.

Will Frisch, 22, the right-handed former Stillwater standout whose fastball reached 98-mph before Tommy John surgery last March, received a $230,000 bonus to sign with the Cubs as their sixth-round draft pick out of Oregon State.

Former Woodbury pitcher Adam Mazur, who was the Big Ten pitcher of the year for Iowa after striking out 98 in 92 2/3 innings, received a $1.25 million signing bonus as the Padres’ second-round draft pick.

Speaking of Tommy John, don’t think the 79-year-old lefty who resides in Palm Springs, Calif., in the winter isn’t puzzled as to why he hasn’t been elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame after 288 victories during 26 major league seasons.

Ex-St. John’s-Collegeville outfielder Wyatt Ulrich has signed with the Padres, who assigned him to the Double-A San Antonio.

That was local basketball notoriety Tyus and Tre Jones, Chet Holmgren, Mike Muscala and Chris Carr among others in a pickup game at Minnehaha Academy on Friday.

Tom Hoge, the two-time Minnesota Amateur golf champion who won $315,625 for tying for fourth in last weekend’s 3M Open, on how his life has changed since his first PGA Tour victory at Pebble Beach in February: “There’s notoriety, getting in the majors — British Open, Masters, some of those tournaments for the first time — and better pairings.”

Public season tickets for Gophers men’s basketball range from $340 to $1,040 per seat. For Balcony Club seating, tickets are $3,500 apiece. For men’s hockey season tickets, prices range from $500 to $800; for Club seating, $1,300. Football season tickets range from $245 to $1,130 apiece. For Club Cambria, $1,500 per seat.

Popular ex-Twin Willians “The Turtle” Astudillo, 30, has hit .241 with one home run in 21 games for the Miami Marlins.

Interesting note from reader Ed Brandt, who attended baseball’s 1965 All-Star Game at Met Stadium: Four of the National League’s 13 future Hall of Famers played the entire game, including catcher Joe Torre.

Former Gopher-NBA center Chris Engler, 63, diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), intends to play in the ALS fundraiser golf tournament on Wednesday at the Wilderness at Fortune Bay. Also playing will be ex-Twins Kent Hrbek and Terry Steinbach. Engler is undergoing stem cell treatment.

“Hanging tough,” he said.

A finely researched history of the rollercoaster ride of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association by Dan Whenesota is new on the market on Amazon. Among anecdotes: Mike “Shaky” Walton once challenged teammate Jack Carlson to fight during an intra-squad game in Mankato. Carlson, who was among the league’s toughest players, twice told told Walton he didn’t want to fight him, that it wouldn’t be a good idea for Walton. Walton persisted, so Carlson broke his nose with one punch.

By the way, wishing the best for ex-Saints president Wayne Belisle, who has challenging health concerns.

Meticulous baseball historian Stew Thornley, an official scorer of Twins games at Target Field, has teamed with Dave Kaplan and Taylor Simmons to author a detailed and entertaining “Minor Treasures” storybook on “Diamond Gems From the Glory Days of Minnesota Baseball” published by Nodin Press.

The glossy-covered paperback recalls multiple visits to the Twin Cities by immortal Yankee Babe Ruth, including in 1926 when he tossed autographed baseballs out a window of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch building to a crowd on the street.

While the Gophers open their 2022 football season against New Mexico State in Minneapolis in a 50,805-seat stadium on Sept. 1, Ohio State opens its season against Notre Dame in Columbus in a 104,944 stadium.

New Mexico State, the program that Jerry Kill has taken over, has had seven seasons in the last nine with nine losses or more, and won just two games last year.

James Laurinaitis, the former Wayzata and Ohio State linebacker, the other day was named to the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame ballot.

The Gophers had a redshirt freshman this year, 6-foot-2, 170-pound right-handed pitcher George Klassen from Port Washington, Wis., whose fastball has reached 98-mph on radar guns. Downside: control.

Klassen, Boston Merila (son of three-time Gophers All-American infielder Mark Merila) and Brady Counsell (son of Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell) are among a half-dozen Gophers chosen to play in the Major League Dreams Showcase on Tuesday in front of major league scouts in La Crosse, Wis.

St. Thomas Academy and Cretin-Derham Hall, with new Raiders coach Steve Walsh, have their football rivalry game on Sept. 16 at St. Thomas Academy. By the way, former Cretin-Derham Hall coach Mal Scanlan, 78, scored his fourth career hole in one the other day at at Highland National. Scanlan’s grandson Casey O’Brien, the courageous former Gophers placeholder and son of St. Thomas Academy coach Dan O’Brien, continues immunotherapy every few weeks as he wards off cancer.

Pro-am sales already have ensured that the Legends of the LPGA tournament Aug. 12-14 at the Meadows at Mystic Lake will be profitable.

Friday’s recruiting commitment of highly regarded 6-foot-5 Illinois prep guard Cam Christie is evidence that Gophers second-year men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson is on the way to getting the program rebuilt.

A half-dozen members of Herb Brooks’ storied 1980 USA Olympic gold medal men’s hockey team played in the Herb Brooks Foundation golf fundraiser Monday at Victory Links in Blaine. Two of the 20-player Olympic team have died, Bob Suter and Mark Pavelich. Mike Ramsey, 61, is the youngest player from the team.

Ex-Viking Adrian Peterson, 37, was a 7-5 underdog for his Saturday boxing match against former fellow NFL running back Le’Veon Bell, 30, 5-9 odds in Los Angeles, but the fight was indefinitely postponed.

Former Concordia University-St. Paul assistant AD Brian Jamros is new president of the Sioux Falls Canaries minor league baseball club.

DON’T PRINT THAT

Center fielder Byron Buxton, 28, who signed a $100 million, seven-year contract last November and intends to remain with the Twins, the other day purchased a $3.2 million house at the posh Bearpath Golf and Country Club in Eden Prairie.

Before the Yankees, with plenty of pitching, acquired outfielder Andrew Benintendi from the Royals for pitching prospects last week, the Yankees inquired about Twins outfielder Max Kepler.

The way it looks now, whichever team — the Twins, White Sox or Guardians — gets to 83 victories first will win their division in the last week of the season. The Twins have 20 games at Target Field in August.

Now that voters finally got it right with the election of former Twins Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat to baseball’s Hall of Fame, it remains inexplicable that former Vikings Chuck Foreman and Jim Marshall haven’t been voted into football’s Hall of Fame.

Steve Braun, who played with Kaat on the Twins in the early 1970s — then a decade later with Kaat on the Cardinals — on the innovative Kaat’s 25-year longevity: “Once he didn’t have that great fastball anymore, he figured out ways to get better with new ideas.”

Among visitors to Cooperstown last weekend for the Oliva-Kaat inductions was former Twin Joe Mauer, who becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in two years. Mauer will be a first ballot electee, according to bookies.com, which used voter trends, statistical analysis and historical precedents for its projection.

The Big 12 Conference is said to be quietly seeking the Gophers, but Minnesota can’t afford the revenue loss of a new Big Ten Network deal, which, with the expansion of USC and UCLA in two years, could be worth nearly $100 million a year.

No Vikings are among the NFL Players’ Association list of top-20 player merchandise sales for 2022. Tom Brady is No. 1; Aaron Rodgers is No. 20.

Once the Big Ten and SEC complete their membership expansions, the majority of college football games viewers will see on Saturdays will be from those two conferences.

Tickets for the Gophers home football opener against New Mexico State on Sept. 1 begin at $40. For the Iowa game on Nov. 9 in Minneapolis, tickets start at $124.

A little birdie says Timberwolves investors Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez still need time to raise the $1.5 billion needed to pay off Glen Taylor before the December 2023 closing sale date.

Karl-Anthony Towns could be in for a surprise if he thinks the acquisition of 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert — allowing the 6-11 Towns to play outside more — is going to make it easier for him to score. Towns now will be guarded by power forwards in the 6-9, 6-10 range, who are much quicker and athletic than the plodding centers against whom he’s been playing.

Also in for a surprise could be Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, 27, who has opt-outs his next two years on his remaining $70.2 million contract, if he thinks a team is going to offer him anything near the $300 million he was seeking last spring to remain in Houston.

The Astros, by the way, are solidly in first place in their West Division despite Correa’s departure.

It looks like the Timberwolves, who insiders say tried hard to dump D’Angelo Russell on Utah for Gobert, are stuck with the 26-year-old point guard and his $31 million salary this year.

Kadyn Betts, the 6-foot-8 Pueblo (Colo.) power forward who last week decided to forgo his senior high school season to sign with the Gophers, also had offers from Nebraska, Wyoming and Akron.

Three-time NCAA champion men’s hockey coach Scott Sandelin is signed at Minnesota Duluth through 2027, but that doesn’t mean several NHL teams aren’t interested.

Don’t eliminate the Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo as a future destination for the PGA Tour’s 3M Open, played last week at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine.

Incoming senior twins Luke and Landon Steffen, both all-conference hockey players at Blaine last year, will be transferring from Blaine to Roseville to play for their father, coach Scott Steffen, for the upcoming season.

The National Basketball Association recently agreed to pay former American Basketball Association players with a minimum three years of service a pension of $3,828 for each season played. Terry Kunze, the former Gopher from Duluth, played just one season in the ABA with the Minnesota Muskies.

“That’s OK,” Kunze, 79, said. “I’m not dying.”

OVERHEARD

Seeing the Goodyear Blimp overhead at the 3M Open in Blaine last week was reminiscent of the frustration of ex-Twins owner Calvin Griffith felt with the noseblood seats he was given by then-A’s ownership years ago to attend the World Series in Oakland. “Put it this way,” Calvin said. “I can tell you the Goodyear Blimp pilot had blue eyes.”