The weeks approaching the NFL Draft are full of smokescreen reports sent out by front offices to keep the competition from sniffing out their plans come draft day.
However, the smoke has started to clear, and apparently, the Minnesota Vikings were interested in trading inside the top five to draft a quarterback to replace Kirk Cousins — but only for Alabama’s Bryce Young, who was selected No. 1 overall by the Carolina Panthers.
“They were making calls about moving up very high in the draft, but my understanding is that was for one player and that was Bryce Young, who ended up going No. 1, and so there went any possibility for Minnesota to go get him, ” NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, a Minnesota native with strong ties to the team since 2003, said on The Pat McAfee Show on May 9. “They knew he wasn’t going to be a Minnesota Viking, so the focus really turned toward getting another weapon for the offense in the draft.”
Numerous reports namedropped some of the draft’s top quarterback prospects as potential targets for Minnesota. The Vikings had done their homework on Hendon Hooker and Will Levis, who they passed on to select USC wide receiver Jordan Addison instead.
“There were all those draft rumors,” Pelissero added. “Half of those are just completely wrong. A lot of the stuff with the Vikings trading up for the quarterbacks was proven wrong. Will Levis was sitting there when the Vikings’ pick came up at No. 23 and they didn’t take him.”
While Pelissero’s report isn’t by any means wedding bells of the new regime and Cousins, it does allow more time for a potential extension to be negotiated now that Minnesota does not have their quarterback of the future in the building (the Vikings did draft BYU’s Jaren Hall in the fifth round).
“With Cousins, there were contract talks about an extension. It’s just, last year Kirk Cousins signed a one-year extension which gave the Vikings flexibility to do exactly what they did, which was explore their options, decide that Kirk Cousins right now is their best option and roll with him in 2023. So Kirk was never going to take another short-term type of deal, another one-year extension. It just didn’t make a lot of sense,” Pelissero said.
Vikings Eyeing Another Extension With Kirk Cousins?
Pelissero’s report is a bit obtuse. Since the Panthers traded the Chicago Bears for the No. 1 overall pick, there was no doubt Carolina would pick Young — rendering Pelissero’s intel a bit obvious.
Pelissero’s report comes off as a form may have been a form of damage control from the Vikings front office that could look to reopen extension talks with Cousins. The breaking point before Minnesota ultimately restructured his contract before free agency was the duration of his next deal, according to the Star Tribune.
“The sense I’ve gotten is that [the Vikings] didn’t want to commit as long as what [Cousins] was looking for. They wanted something shorter, he wanted something longer. My understanding is that 2025 was the issue,” Star Tribune reporter Ben Goessling said on a March 20 episode of the Access Vikings podcast. “The question of how long would everyone guarantee it for. I think he wanted ’25, they were like ‘Well, we don’t want to commit that long.’ He’d be 37 before the 2025 season so it gets to be later in the game than you want to fully guarantee a quarterback deal.”
Minnesota is likely looking for Cousins to sign another one-year extension to buy them more time to draft and develop a quarterback. Meanwhile, the window is opening for Cousins’ camp to gauge his value with free agency approaching if the two sides don’t work out an extension by the end of the 2023 season.
“His camp is going to have conversations with teams around the league about hypothetically if this guy is available what their interest level,” Goessling added. “If negotiations come back around with the Vikings you’re able to do it in a sensible manner.”
Kirk Cousins Addresses Contract Year Ahead
While Cousins has enjoyed stability and fully guaranteed contracts in Minnesota, he’s no stranger to the contract year which could embark on this season.
“This is my fourth time in this league going into a season with free agency on the horizon — my fourth year of my rookie contract, the two years in Washington after that, and now this. I would just say that to say, it’s more the norm than the exception,” Cousins said in a May 3 media conference.
Cousins is coming off his winningest season to date, compiling a 13-4 record last season despite a down year statistically. He made up for it by impressing in the clutch, leading the league with eight game-winning drives. However, a first-round playoff loss to the New York Giants was a reality check just how far Cousins could take Minnesota.
He acknowledged that winning is the only way to secure a future in the NFL.
“I think in this league, there should never be entitlement. You’ve always got to go play,” Cousins said. “And teams can do whatever they want to do, that’s their prerogative. So, you just go to work, do the best you can. You got to focus on winning football games and do your part and put your work in the rest will take care of itself.”
Cousins saw his future with the Vikings in limbo when the organization underwent wholesale changes in the front office and coaching staff last year. It was also the first time he publicly said that he wanted to be a Viking for life.
The 2023 season may be his final chance to earn that.
“I want to be in Minnesota. That’s kind of a no-brainer, so hopefully we can earn the right to do that,” Cousins said. “I’ve always said that, when I say I would like to be in Minnesota, there’s a lot of things I’d like to have — you’ve got to go earn it. So that’s kind of where I’m at with that.”