Cousins stepped to the microphone following his team’s 31-24 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday, January 15, during Super Wild Card Weekend. It didn’t take long for a reporter, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, to broach the topic of the QB’s tenure in Minnesota.
“I love being a Minnesota Viking,” Cousins responded.
“I’m probably missing one, but this is probably the toughest loss of my career,” Cousins said, per Kevin Seifert of ESPN.
Cousins Signed With Vikings Through 2023, Intends to Play Longer
While an appropriate answer for the setting and context, as well as a vague one, how much Cousins actually loves being a member of the Vikings will likely be tied to how much the Vikings are willing to pay him to stick around.
The 34-year-old QB made comments in a January 11 interview indicating he intends to keep playing professionally for several years.
“Every time you go out there and play and learn and get better, you build as a player. Continuous improvement is what I’ve always looked for,” Cousins said. “You always want to get better as a quarterback, and I think that continuous improvement has happened. The day that I don’t feel that’s happening anymore, I’ll probably walk away.”
The Vikings extended Cousins during the offseason on a one-year contract worth $35 million, which will keep him in playing in purple through 2023. However, the decision of the new regime to avoid a long-term deal for the QB doesn’t bode well for Cousins’ future with the Vikings.
Vikings Should Consider Cousins as Bridge to Next Franchise QB
Minnesota went 13-4 and won the NFC North Division in 2022. The franchise has a responsibility to build on that momentum, which may well be enough to keep Cousins on through next season if they can’t find a better option. The danger is that Cousins could end up walking for nothing in 2024.
As a clearcut top-15 quarterback this season (Pro Football Focus ranked him 14th of 38 players qualifying at the position as of Sunday) in a QB-needy league, Cousins continues to retain significant trade value.
Matthew Coller suggested on the December 20 edition of the Purple Insider podcast that Cousins had earned the kind of big new deal that would keep at the helm in Minnesota for the remainder of his career.
Kirk Cousins will not take any deal that’s not great for him. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a reality. I look at what happened against [the Indianapolis Colts] as the tipping point to definitively say Kirk Cousins signs an extension.
That was a tipping point game where they’re going to say, “Let’s make him the Vikings quarterback for life.”
The ideal situation is probably to extend Cousins for two more seasons through 2025 at a reasonable number for his age and talent level, likely in the $30 million range annually. Assuming Cousins stays relatively healthy, that contract would age fairly well as QB salaries at the top of the league continue to press upward of $45-$50 million per season and higher (Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, etc.).
Whether Cousins would accept that type of figure across that span of years remains an open question. He could push for three years at a higher annual amount, or potentially for even more. However, most NFL contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, so whatever deal the Vikings might ultimately agree to would have some wiggle room built into the back end.
That would keep Cousins’ steady and experienced hand under center in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the team can use its first-round draft pick in 2023 to select his heir apparent.
Dual-threat Florida QB Anthony Richardson is a name that has been bandied about in that range of the draft and can offer the Vikings optimism for the future as a project to be developed throughout Cousins’ final years.