Vikings QB Kirk Cousins’ Future Linked to NFC Rival in 2022

Kirk Cousins

Getty Kirk Cousins could be a draft target fo the Denver Broncos this offseason.

The Minnesota Vikings have an impasse ahead with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

To avoid a mass exodus the team saw scourge its defense in the 2020 offseason, the Vikings will have to decide what to do with Cousins’ hefty $45 million cap hit in 2022.

In a Saturday column, Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters forecasted the Vikings’ financial future, speculating that Cousins could fetch interest in the trade market and raised a potential buyer of Cousins.

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Walters: Cousins Would ‘Thrive’ With Saints

Kyle Shanahan’s love affair with Cousins makes the San Francisco 49ers a perennial trade rumors candidate for Cousins. But after drafting Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 draft, the 49ers have already invested their future at quarterback in Lance.

Walters suggested that Cousins could seamlessly fit with the New Orleans Saints, who haven’t found a secure option at quarterback since Drew Brees retired.

“On the open market, Cousins, who has played well, probably would get a similar deal. Hint: It’s a good bet he would thrive under offensive-minded Saints coach Sean Payton,” Waters wrote.

The Saints have the cap space to support Cousins’ salary and then some. They’re projected to have $61 million in cap space entering the 2022 offseason, per OverTheCap.

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Mounting Pressure

The Vikings’ signing of Cousins in 2018 was a sign that the franchise was ready to win now after making an NFC Championship game appearance that year.

But after the first three seasons, the Vikings have produced just one playoff wins and haven’t returned to the NFC title game.

Six of the team’s original starters on defense become free agents next offseason: Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, Xavier Woods, Anthony Barr, Nick Vigil and Everson Griffen. The Vikings will need to either re-sign several of the team’s most talented defenders or find fill-ins in free agency next year.

If the Vikings don’t make the postseason for a second consecutive year, the first time in Mike Zimmer’s tenure, Cousins’ contract may be on the chopping block. The franchise will have to reassess if he is worth his weight on the books, boasting the third-highest cap hit of any quarterback in the league.

The Vikings could extend Cousins and create cap space or trade him, offloading his $35 million salary elsewhere. Cutting Cousins would still leave the Vikings on the hook for his $10 million signing bonus — making the smartest move to trade him if they can’t agree to an extension and don’t want to carry his projected salary cap into the 2022 season.

Jefferson Ready to Strike Rich

Justin Jefferson, joining Odell Beckham Jr. and Randy Moss as the only receivers to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first two seasons, is in line to strike gold when he reaches his second contract.

The Vikings should do whatever they can to make the star sophomore receiver happy, including renegotiating his contract immediately. NFL labor rules require rookies to play three seasons before entering contract negotiations, slatting Jefferson’s potential payday in the 2023 offseason.

Walters suggested that, with an explosion to the NFL’s salary cap ceiling in the coming years, Jefferson could fetch a five-year, $140 million deal. That deal, if struck today, would make Jefferson the league’s highest-paid wide receiver with a $28 million average annual salary, slightly higher than DeAndre Hopkins’ $27.3 million average annual salary.

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