Vikings Predicted to Offer Polarizing 4-Time Pro Bowler Long-Term Deal

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Vikings

Getty General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on February 28, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings have a quarterback for next season but after that, the position is far less certain.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported on Sunday, February 26, that the Vikings will not kick the quarterback can down the road again with another one-year deal for Kirk Cousins. Instead, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah indicated on Tuesday during a media session at the NFL Combine that the franchise will sign Cousins long-term if it can do so on a “flexible” (aka, team-friendly) deal.

“Obviously from their side, they want it as certain as possible, and from our side, we want flexibility,” Adofo-Mensah said. “You’re always trying to be solutions-oriented and find a way that works for both people.”

Reading between the lines, the GM’s choice of words implies the team will bring Cousins back on a multiyear extension if it can do so, at least somewhat, on its own terms. The primary reason for Adofo-Mensah assuming that position is that Minnesota has few other options.

Though he danced around it somewhat, that is essentially the same take ESPN insider Kevin Seifert offered on Wednesday when he laid out an argument for why Cousins is a strong extension candidate, while so many other pricey Vikings stars are likely to find themselves in new uniforms come September.

Vikings Must Commit to Cousins to Solidify QB Position, Trim Cap Hit

Kirk Cousins

GettyQuarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during a game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Nick Mullens is poised to be the backup again in Minnesota in 2023, after the team bailed on third-round pick Kellen Mond following just one season on the bench.

The Vikings don’t have a high enough pick (No. 24) and to secure a game-ready QB in the first round of the coming NFL Draft and with only five selections in total, they would probably have to mortgage their entire draft to move up high enough to get one.

As Seifert notes, that doesn’t just render Cousins the only legitimate option in 2023, but probably in 2024 as well, even if Minnesota goes QB in the third round (pick No. 87 overall) or the fourth round (pick No. 119 overall, via the Detroit Lions).

The Vikings could reduce [Cousins’ $36.3 million] cap number with a contract extension, but Cousins would have the leverage to ask for guaranteed money that would in essence lock him in as a starter into the 2024 season and potentially beyond. He turns 35 in August. Depending on the length of an extension, the Vikings could shave at least $10 million off Cousins’ 2023 cap figure.

The Vikings might not want to do anything beyond a one-year deal, but they’re hamstrung by the complete lack of a succession plan. Cousins has missed one start in his career for health reasons, and there’s a growing body of evidence for quarterbacks playing at a high level into their late 30s.

Cousins Has More Leverage Than Vikings in Contract Negotiations

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

GettyHead coach Kevin O’Connell (right) of the Minnesota Vikings talks to quarterback Kirk Cousins (left) before a game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Seifert’s argument also acknowledged the very real possibility that Cousins begins this season without a new contract, which is risky for both sides of the equation, though more so for the Vikings than their quarterback.

Pro Football Focus rated Cousins a top-10 signal caller in the NFL last season as he earned his third Pro-Bowl nod in the last four campaigns. The team has been to the playoffs twice in five years with Cousins under center and won the NFC North Division last year.

And with the clamoring throughout the league for an aging and mercurial Aaron Rodgers, an underachieving Derek Carr and a project QB prospect like Florida’s Anthony Richardson, a stable entity like Cousins is worth a contract. Why? Because of proven consistency and that, despite his shortcomings, he remains better than the average NFL quarterback.

The Vikings, on the other hand, will lose most, if not all, of their leverage if Cousins has another quality year and hits free agency with no solidified backup plan to replace him in Minnesota. Even if the Vikings draft a player like Stanford QB Tanner McKee or Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker, that player must hit and must be ready to roll by year two in the NFL.

By pushing Cousins out the door without a quality succession plan, Minnesota also runs the risk of alienating All-Pro Justin Jefferson, who the team is expected to extend on the richest wide receiver contract in league history as early as this offseason.

Adofo-Mensah and the Vikings find themselves in a difficult situation under center, even despite having a four-time Pro Bowler who never gets hurt as their primary option, and there are no good answers. But the best answer is sign Cousins long-term and do whatever possible to create a reasonable out after the 2024 season, which appears to be the most likely outcome once all the dust finally settles.

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