Minnesota Vikings third-round pick Kellen Mond is not threatening Kirk Cousins for the starting job.
ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported that Cousins was given the heads up that the team would select a quarterback, but his job security was stable.
“A Vikings coach reached out to Cousins in the lead-up to the draft to let him know Minnesota was considering taking a quarterback at some point. It wasn’t to warn him that his job was in jeopardy or that he was immediately replaced. It was a simple heads-up so Cousins wouldn’t be blindsided,” Cronin wrote.
However, remember when Cousins led the league with 11 interceptions through six weeks last season as the Vikings entered the bye week 1-5? Cousins’ seat was still secure given the considerable downgrade in talent below him in Sean Mannion.
That changes with Mond entering the frame, Star Tribune columnist Michael Rand asserts.
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Cousins ‘Disingenuous’ About Being Benched Last Season
The Vikings hit a low in Week 6 when Cousins threw three interceptions in a 40-23 loss to the hapless 1-4 Atlanta Falcons who had just fired their head coach a week before. It was the second game in which Cousins threw three interceptions to start the season — the other being in Week 2’s 28-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Cousins’ response after the Falcons game was more lip service than accountability, according to Rand.
“The reality is, if the pace I’m on in terms of the interceptions, if that were to continue, I won’t finish the season,” Cousins said after the Falcons loss. There’s a little bit of, you’ve got to improve. Whether it’s them telling me, ‘Hey, we gotta improve,’ or them pulling me, we’ve got to get better.”
Rand found the answer honest yet “disingenuous” because of the lack of threats for his job. Regardless of the legitimacy of the pressure coming out of the bye week, Cousins recovered well, throwing 24 touchdowns and three interceptions in 10 games the rest of the season.
In 2021, Cousins is still the starter on any given day, but if he struggles, Rand believes Vikings fans and the front office could be curious to see what Mond can do as an in-game replacement.
Mannion was an emergency backup the past two seasons along with Trevor Siemian in 2018 — when Cousins was the shiny new toy in Minnesota. That new toy is Mond, and the Vikings are bullish on the Texas A&M prospect after spending the highest draft capital on a quarterback since Teddy Bridgewater in 2014.
“The moment Cousins struggles for the first time in 2021 — as all players, even the best ones, do — there will be a different feeling with Kellen Mond on the sidelines,” Rand wrote.
Contract Extension Off the Book for Cousins
Cousins is on the books to make $31 million in 2021 and a league-leading $45 million in 2022 — all fully guaranteed. That $45 million in 2022 is backloaded cash that Minnesota could push onto later years by offering another extension to Cousins.
However, Cousins has made no promises of wanting to sign another extension and has opted to take a year-by-year approach to his career and play the market.
“Honestly, I just signed the extension last offseason and it really doesn’t kick in ’til this coming year,” Cousins told Pro Football Talk. “It’s a two-year deal. Those two years begin with 2021… I think it’s more about going out there next season and the year after that and playing at a high enough level that would justify being able to do another deal beyond that.”
But with Mond entering the fold and on a two-year development plan under Cousins, Minnesota may not want to stick with Cousins at his asking price in 2022, especially with a quarterback on a rookie contract waiting in the wings.
“For the first time since Cousins arrived, there is a player behind him who could take his job someday. It’s not a first-round pick like the Aaron Rodgers/Jordan Love tsunami whipping through Green Bay right now, but it is something that will make 2021 feel different than the previous three seasons,” Rand wrote.