The team announced that Cousins would be back in purple and white through the 2023 season by way of a one-year contract extension worth $35 million. The QB was already under contract next year for the same base salary, plus a $10 million bonus. As part of the new agreement, that $45 million figure in 2022 is also going up.
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network was the first to report the news of Cousins’ return to Minnesota.
“The #Vikings are signing Pro Bowl QB Kirk Cousins to a one-year, $35 million fully guaranteed extension that puts him under contract through 2023, per sources,” Pelissero tweeted Sunday. “Cousins gets a raise to $40 million in 2022, $55 million payable by next March and a no-trade clause.”
The quarterback’s new deal means he will again join forces with Pro Bowl wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, only this time under a different scheme crafted by offensive guru and new Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell.
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New Deal Signals Compromise Between Vikings, Cousins
While Cousins’ new deal with the Vikings should not come as a total surprise, it was also far from a guarantee.
Cousins made it clear he was not interested in taking a pay cut moving forward, which complicated issues for Minnesota’s new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. While the QB has been undeniably productive during his time with the Vikings, he has also failed to lead them to the playoffs, or even a winning record, since 2019.
When Darren Wolfson of KSTP reported Friday, March 11 that Adofo-Mensah had offered Cousins an extension, the thought was that the Vikings may have bitten the bullet and committed to the polarizing QB for several more seasons at a hefty price tag. Whether doing so was actually the best option proved a point of contention for weeks leading up to the decision, namely because of the Vikings’ failure to make a deep postseason run over the course of the quarterback’s tenure in Minneapolis.
As it turns out, the two sides met in the middle. Cousins wanted to be paid in the ballpark of $40 million annually, per NFL insider Jordan Schultz. He essentially achieved that with the $35 million extension and the extra $5 million tacked on to his 2022 deal — which also includes a $10 million bonus, as previously mentioned.
But the Vikings also won in that they got to kick the can a year down the road on any long-term decision on Cousins. That allows O’Connell to see what he has under center and keeps the team competitive in the NFC North Division next season, while also allowing Minnesota to retain a valuable trade asset in Cousins’ contract, which the Vikings can trade next offseason if they ultimately decide to go another way.
Cousins Must Turn Statistical Production Into Winning in 2022
If Minnesota is to keep Cousins for the long haul, the quarterback is going to have to show that he can do more than fill the stat sheet. He also has to fill the win column.
To describe Cousins as a prolific passer in the NFL is not a stretch. He has been selected to two Pro Bowls across four seasons in Minnesota. Over his last two campaigns, Cousins is averaging nearly 4,250 yards passing and 34 TDs per season compared to an average of just 10 INTs each year.
The advanced analytics love Cousins, too. Pro Football Focus (PFF) slotted him as the sixth best QB in the NFL out of 37 players who qualified at the position, with an overall rating of 88.2.
However, the Vikings amassed a win/loss record of just 8-9 last season, which followed a 7-9 campaign in 2020. Minnesota did earn a trip to the playoffs under Cousins in 2019 after finishing 10-6 that season. The Vikings bested the New Orleans Saints 26-20 in overtime on Wildcard Weekend, but fell to the San Francisco 49ers 27-10 in the Divisional Round.
A return to 2019 form could mean Cousins sticks around for several years to come. But if the Vikings fail to make the playoffs for the third consecutive year, expect the Cousins’ trade speculation to pick up again right where it left off on Sunday.