Here’s Why Kirk Cousins Needs to Return to the Vikings in 2024

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during warmups against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Much discussion has been had about the future of Kirk Cousins and the quarterback position in Minnesota.

Cousins has been the starter in Minnesota since the 2018 season and will be a free agent this offseason. Spotrac expects the signal-caller to command just shy of $40 million on the market, which would be a raise over his previous average salary of $35 million. 

There’s no question that Cousins has performed at an elite level at times. Before suffering a season-ending injury in 2023, Cousins threw for 2,331 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions. The veteran also completed 69.5% of his passes, which was his best mark since his debut season in Minnesota back in 2018.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has mentioned the need for Cousins to meet the team in the middle in contract negotiations. Head coach Kevin O’Connell, meanwhile, has made it clear he would prefer to have Cousins back in tow for 2024.

Today, let’s identify the three main reasons why the Vikings cannot let Cousins leave in free agency.

Chemistry and Relationships

Kirk Cousins
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

As mentioned above, Kevin O’Connell is not shy about expressing his love for Cousins. By all accounts, Cousins and his family love being in Minnesota. It’s clear that the Vikings’ players respect Cousins as well, and much of the fanbase loves the QB.

Star wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins are close. At the 2024 NFL Combine, Adofo-Mensah mentioned that Jefferson was asked about what attributes he prefers in a QB. It’s unclear what Jefferson said, but it’s safe to say the team won’t do anything to upset one of the most talented wide receivers in the game.

Ultimately, none of these things matter if the financials don’t work out. However, reaction is something you do have to consider when dealing with a franchise-altering position like QB.

A Rookie QB Could Close the Contention Window

Nov 11, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) looks to pass in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Say the Vikings let Cousins walk and decide to go with a rookie. Most rookies need time to develop and grow into the role and most teams with rookie QBs struggle for awhile. Are Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell ready to close the chapter on this version of the team?

Additionally, the Jefferson contract situation must be considered. Set to be a free agent after the 2024 season, will Jefferson want to re-sign with a rebuilding team? There’s a high likelihood that one of the game’s best will not want to waste a couple of seasons of his prime while a rookie develops.

Going for a rookie QB over Cousins would also start the clock on Adofo-Mensah’s tenure. Most general managers don’t get two opportunities to find a franchise QB.

 Cousins Can Still Play at an Elite Level

Oct 23, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It would be one thing if Cousins struggled before his season-ending injury. However, the QB was playing at the level we’ve grown accustomed to in Minnesota. Cousins completed 69.5% of his passes while throwing for 2,331 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions. Even though the QB will turn 36 before the 2024 season begins, he has shown he has plenty of gas left in the tank.

Cousins has thrown for 4,000+ yards in seven of his nine seasons as a full-time starter. The QB has also thrown for 30+ TDs three times. With one of the best tight ends in the league and one of the best receivers, it’s not hard to imagine a world in which Cousins eclipses both of those marks again in 2024.

Cousins may not make plays with his legs, but he’s been one of the most reliable QBs of the last nine years. Sure, a rookie or another outside addition could be even better, but the chances of that are slim.

If the Vikings want to get back to contention soon, Cousins should be the QB. 

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Reference.