Vikings Urged to Avoid Extension For 4-Time Pro Bowler, Part Ways

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings have a good quarterback in Kirk Cousins, but the flames are rising around the question of whether he’s good enough to take the franchise where it’s hoping to go.

For Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the answer on Cousins is a definitive “no.” He made his position clear, and then some, during a Wednesday, January 25 appearance on the Paul Allen Show via a comparison to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

“Joe Burrow is the anti-Kirk Cousins. Joe Burrow is the guy who, like Kirk, will have a great season,” Florio said. “But when the lights get bright, you’ve got one game and your whole season is riding on it — do you crumble, or do you rise? Joe Burrow rises, Kirk crumbles.”

“Kirk doesn’t have it,” Florio continued. “You can take your rose-colored glasses and shove them up your butt. Kirk doesn’t have it.”

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins Taking Flack For Final Play of Playoff Loss

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

GettyQuarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings reacts against the New York Giants during the NFC Wild Card Game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Cousins is a four-time Pro-Bowler, earning those honors three times in his five seasons as a member of the Vikings, including in 2021 and 2022. He put up 4,547 passing yards to go along with 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while starting all 17 games this past regular season, leading Minnesota to the second-most prolific passing offense in the NFL based on yards gained.

More than that, Cousins was good in the clutch for most of the year, helping the Vikings win a record 11 one-score games on the team’s way to a resurgent 13-4 record and an NFC North Division title. But Florio’s argument boiled down to one moment in the team’s Wild Card playoff loss to the New York Giants earlier this month.

It was 4th down and eight yards to go with 1:51 left to play in the fourth quarter and the ball placed on Minnesota’s 47-yard line, as the Vikings trailed the Giants by a score of 31-24. Cousins dropped back to pass, surveyed the field, then checked down and completed a three-yard dump-off to tight end T.J. Hockenson.

Hockenson was immediately tackled and the game, as well as Minnesota’s season, was abruptly and unceremoniously ended — not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Florio seized on Cousins’ failure in that moment to make his point that the QB, despite all of his success as an above-average to good quarterback across an 11-year career, will never be the answer for a Vikings’ team with Super Bowl aspirations under new head coach Kevin O’Connell.

“[That] was the play. That’s the season. That’s the incubator. That’s the test,” Florio said. “You wait all your life for that moment. When that moment arrives, what do you do?”

“You either are that guy, or you aren’t that guy,” Florio continued. “Joe Burrow does it. Kirk Cousins doesn’t.”

Vikings Non-Committal on Cousins’ Long-Term Future in Minnesota

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

GettyQuarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass against the New York Giants during the NFC Wild Card Game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Whether Florio’s assessment of Cousins is fair, his apprehension about the QB appears to have been shared by Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah ever since he took over the job prior to the 2022 season.

Adofo-Mensah was complimentary of Cousins when he extended him on a one-year deal through 2023 worth $35 million. But actions speak louder than words. The contract was lucrative but it was not long-term. Some of that is a function of age, as Cousins will turn 35 a few weeks ahead of next season. And some of it had to do with questions about whether Cousins was the kind of QB who could put Minnesota over the top. He failed to do so in 2022, but will presumably have at least one more year to get the job done.

“It’s our expectation that he’ll be our quarterback,” Adofo-Mensah said of Cousins during a January 18 press conference.

Still, Minnesota remains in a fluid situation under center due to the fact that Cousins will, in all likelihood, seek a lucrative and long-term extension this offseason. If the Vikings don’t intend to offer him such a deal, they run the risk of the QB walking for nothing at the end of the year. However anyone might feel about Cousins as a Super Bowl-level signal caller, one thing is certain — he will have suitors in a QB-starved league.

That means the Vikings may also consider dealing Cousins over the offseason, or extending him with the intention of trading him after 2023. Adofo-Mensah was asked about the possibility of offering Cousins an extension during the end-of-year press conference.

“I can’t say exactly how that would look,” the GM said. “We have everything at our disposal. We’ll consider all those things, just like we will with everyone else on the roster.”

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