The Vikings’ Single Largest Cap Hit is a Bit Surprising and Discouraging

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Lately, the conversation has been dominated by the Justin Jefferson extension. No doubt, that’s great news.

Stepping back for a broader discussion of the Vikings’ finances may involve considering how the cap is being allocated in 2024. Minnesota is working through what is now the NFL’s 3rd largest dead money pile. A major reason why the total is so monstrous — $57,380,208 — is due to the leftover cap charge from Kirk Cousins’ deal.

The Vikings’ Single Largest Cap Hit Belongs to Kirk Cousins

Since the beginning, Kirk Cousins has been controversial in Minnesota because of the money.

Prying him away from Washington meant shipping out a three-year deal that promised to pay $84 million in fully guaranteed money. It was a huge amount of money for a QB with lots of talent and yet not too many team accomplishments.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) calls signals at the line against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins had his ups and downs in Minnesota. One simply thinks of all of the offensive coordinators — John DeFilippo, Kevin Stefanski, Gary Kubiak, Klint Kubiak, Kevin O’Connell/Wes Phillips — as simply one way of explaining the up-and-down nature of his time at the helm.

And yet within that Cousins was able to stick around, seeing his deal extended multiple times to he could keep calling Minnesota home. What was a three-year commitment eventually doubled in total years. Add it all together and Cousins was the quarterback in Minnesota for six seasons.

In fact, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah put together the final contract adjustment. Doing so cleared off money in 2023, leading to some immediate benefit for Minnesota last year. However, the bill is now being paid. The Vikings have a whopping $28.5 million rendered inaccessible due to Cousins’ contract.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates a touchdown pass with the offensive line during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In basically any sport, major money leads to major expectations. Cousins secured some huge paydays while in Minnesota so he garnered no shortage of criticism for the ways that Minnesota failed to establish itself as legitimate contenders in his time.

In terms of players actually on the roster, Brian O’Neill is the lone player to see his cap charge up into the 20s. The star right tackle has a cap charge sitting at close to $23 million. Otherwise, there are a pair of players who clear $10 million — T.J. Hockenson at a bit beyond $14 million and Byron Murphy at close to $11 million — and then everyone else is below the $10 million threshold.

Even with the dead money, though, Minnesota still has quite a bit of money to operate in the current offseason, so another deal or two wouldn’t be surprising.

Editor’s Note: Information from Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.