What Will the Vikings Do With Kirk Cousins After the Season?

Kirk Cousins
Oct 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes the ball in the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins is now in his fourth year as the Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback.

He is under contract for 2022, but there is one obstacle. He is due $45 million. He is a very good quarterback and is having his best season ever, but that is still a very high price. It will be very shocking if he is back with the team at that number, especially since they will enter the offseason $11 million over the salary cap. He will also turn 34 next year, which is not very old but not very young either. The Vikings are also likely to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years. A rebuild may be necessary after this season. He just tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, by the way, and will miss Sunday’s game at Green Bay. He could very well miss the season finale next week too at home against the Chicago Bears.

What will the Vikings do? Will they extend him to bring that number down? Will they try to trade him to save $35 million ($10 million dead cap money) and get some picks in return? That will be very interesting to find out. Maybe they will, in fact, bring him back for one more year even at that huge cap number. Kirk Cousins himself could just say no to an extension with the Vikings or a different team, collect the $45 million, and go on the market in 2023.

It will certainly be understandable if the team tries to extend him. He is a good quarterback. Not elite, but pretty good. Is it worth it, though, to bring him back?

Despite all their losses being by eight points or less, this team also has some players getting older. Plenty of young talent too (especially Justin Jefferson), but players like Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, and Harrison Smith are getting up there in age. All are very good still, but for how much longer can they keep it up? Even if, say, Cousins makes $30 million next year, it will make it easier to sign more free agents, including their own, but it may not be enough. Things change quickly in this league; realistically, can this team compete for a Super Bowl these next two or three years? Never say never, but it will be very tough. Maybe they could draft even better than usual. We do not know.

Best case scenario would be to move Cousins after this year and rebuild. It could also give him a chance to go to a better team. The Vikings could draft a quarterback in the first round and perhaps sign a veteran for a year or two. Yes, drafting a quarterback early is very risky. If you draft a bust, it could really set you back three or four years. The Vikings since Fran Tarkenton have not had much success in finding franchise quarterbacks. Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, and Brett Favre were very good short-term solutions. Daunte Culpepper looked to be the guy, but he struggled mightily in 2005 after coming off a phenomenal season and later tore three ligaments in his knee. Tarvaris Jackson and Christian Ponder did not pan out. Teddy Bridgewater could have been the long-term guy if not for his horrific injury.

The Vikings were 13-3 in 2017 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game. They signed Kirk Cousins to get them to the big dance. They have only made it to the playoffs once since. They did pull off an upset at New Orleans two years ago, but still missed the playoffs the other two years and very well could miss it again.

Is it all Cousins’ fault that things have become worse since his arrival? Absolutely not. He has always been a pretty good quarterback. The defense has also not been as good since 2017 and these past two years it has been amongst the worst in the league. The 2018 and 2019 teams had a good defense, but not like 2017 when it was the best in the league. Losing offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur hurt as well. Their schedule that season was not as difficult either. Aaron Rodgers missing 10 games that year played a huge role. The Chicago Bears have made the playoffs twice since then (this year has been a huge struggle for them).

What parts are his fault, though? His contract has made it more difficult to sign more free agents, though not impossible. Rob Brzezinski is an absolute cap wizard, but it would have been easier had Cousins made less. Cousins, despite being very good, is not great. He usually does not play his best in the biggest games and moments. It has been more different this year than previous years, but given he is not elite he needs more help around him than the elite ones do. Could the Vikings have still drafted a little better? Yes, absolutely. Cousins usually gets more blame than he deserves, but some of the blame is definitely fair and understandable.

In 62 games with Minnesota, Cousins has thrown 121 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. The team has gone 32-29-1.

If the Vikings move on from Cousins, who will be the man under center? The quarterback class this year is not considered as strong as last year’s, but maybe they will roll the dice in the first round. Possibilities are Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Malik Willis (Liberty), and Matt Corral (Ole Miss). Free agents available include Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, and Marcus Mariota. Former Viking Teddy Bridgewater is also an impending free agent. They could very well end up with a bust in the draft, but sometimes you have to take the chance. Rebuilds are never fun, but they can sometimes lead to great things later.

It was worth a shot, but in the end Kirk Cousins and the Vikings were not a great match. It is best for both sides to move on after the season. Who will show interest in him? The Pittsburgh Steelers perhaps could be interested. They have over $44 million in cap space and Ben Roethlisberger will likely retire after the season. Maybe the Denver Broncos could have interest, too.

Either way, it is best for both sides to move on.

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