Kirk Cousins‘ reputation as a shrewd negotiator did not follow him into his most recent contract talks with the Minnesota Vikings.
Cousins, whose $159 million earned the past five seasons with the Vikings is the largest by any player in the league, wanted three more seasons in Minnesota and was willing to take a discount, Star Tribune reporters Ben Goessling and Andrew Krammer revealed on the Access Vikings podcast.
However, the Vikings turned him down, instead opting for a contract restructure that freed up $16 million in cap space for one last run with Cousins before a potential pivot elsewhere at quarterback for the first time since 2018.
“The sense I’ve gotten is that they didn’t want to commit as long as what he was looking for. They wanted something shorter, he wanted something longer. My understanding is that 2025 was the issue,” Goessling said. “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.”
Krammer added that Cousins was willing to take a discount despite an inflated quarterback market that saw New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones garner a deal worth over $40 million a year.
“I had also heard that he wasn’t asking for $40 [million],” Krammer added. “He wasn’t asking for that much, in terms of what Daniel Jones got, who is obviously much younger but much less accomplished. Cousins’ camp was kind of surprised I guess, from what I heard, at the Vikings not jumping or at least accepting what they were asking for.”
Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was frank in his media conference at the combine when speaking on contract negotiations with Cousins. He said he was looking for flexibility, while also acknowledging Cousins’ camp was looking for certainty and guarantees — a precedent set after Cousins became the first NFL player to secure a fully guaranteed contract when he first arrived in Minnesota five years ago.
That proved to be an impasse for the Vikings, who send Cousins into his first contract year since his days in Washington.
“They are at least willing to look at the possibility of ‘Do we go to a bridge starter? Do we go to a younger quarterback,'” Goessling said. “They’re willing to look at their options in conjunction with Kirk Cousins rather than just committing to him for the next three or four years.”
Vikings Striving for ‘Financial Hack’ With Rookie QB, Insider Says
The new Vikings regime helmed by head coach Kevin O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah is blazing a new trail for the franchise that has played it safe when it come to the quarterback position.
A snakebitten history of whiffing on first-round quarterbacks left former general manager Rick Spielman choosing veterans in free agency instead. It proved to be enough to keep Spielman in his seat for a decade — however, the new regime is hoping to reap the team-building benefits of having a quarterback on a rookie-scale contract, according to Goessling.
“[The Vikings] haven’t had this idea of a young quarterback on a rookie contract for a long time and I think there is some intrigue in the building with that idea. What would it look like if we had this kind of financial hack of paying a starting quarterback $7-$8 million a year, rather than $30 [million], and we’re getting that level of production,” Goessling said. If you get that guy right, that’s a big if, but if you get it right, that certainly is intriguing to some of the people in that building.”
Moving off a pricey veteran like Cousins seems inevitable given Justin Jefferson is soon to become the highest-paid wide receiver in the league.
Vikings Have a Chance to Become Team Discount Destination
Looking at Super Bowl teams that have won with a quarterback on a veteran contract, they’ve been built around having cap flexibility at the position along with a bevy of incoming free agents that are willing to take a pay cut to win a ring.
Minnesota is still far away from becoming that destination, but if the Vikings land on a future franchise quarterback to pair with Jefferson, they’ll enjoy significant cap savings to build a championship-caliber roster that could bloom Minnesota into a destination for free agents.
The Vikings also ranked No. 1 in the NFLPA’s inaugural “free agency report cards” tally, which surveyed players on the quality of facilities and organization.