After agreeing to a three-year, $84 million contract with the Vikings — the most fully guaranteed money awarded to a player in NFL history — Cousins came to Minnesota with one thing on his mind.
“Winning is what I said it would be all about, and it’s true,” Cousins said, per Bleacher Report.
Despite Cousins’ efforts, wins have been hard to come by from the franchise that was months removed from the NFC title game when he arrived. The Vikings are 25-22-1 over the past three years with Cousins and have made the playoffs once.
With pressure mounting in Minnesota, the Vikings and Cousins need to produce results that warrant the historic deal.
If they can’t, Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport projects a “messy divorce” within the organization.
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Vikings Leadership Tied to ‘Messy Divorce’
Cousins enters the first year of a two-year contract extension worth an additional $66 million this season, raising his career earnings to $196 million through 2022.
Cousins carries a relatively light cap hit this season of $31 million, but is due $45 million in 2022 — the second-highest cap hit of any player in the league, per Over the Cap.
That $45 million figure has become a point of frustration on whether Cousins warrants that money with a 51-51-2 record and 1-3 postseason showing in his nine-year career.
Davenport said that if Minnesota cannot make a deep postseason run, a regime change could be in order along with a “messy divorce from the soon-to-be 33-year-old quarterback.”
“If the Vikings come up short of the playoffs for a third time in four years and [Mike] Zimmer and [Rick] Spielman are let go (a pair of perfectly plausible possibilities), then it’s a safe bet that one of the first steps a new regime would undertake is making an effort to extricate the team out from under Cousins’ contract,” Davenport wrote.
Getting out from under Cousins’ contract would require a trade next offseason as his new team would take on his salary, while the Vikings would be on the hook for his $10 million prorated bonus, per Over The Cap.
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Are the Vikings’ New Heights on Offense Enough?
Cousins hasn’t played poorly during his time in Minnesota.
He helped the Vikings produce the fourth-most yards per game (393.3) last season, throwing for 4,265 yards and a career-high 35 touchdowns.
But greatness has been fleeting for the Vikings who have followed an every-other-year playoff trend with coach Mike Zimmer.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf took the franchise’s future into his own hands by demanding general manager Rick Spielman to take a quarterback early in this year’s draft. Spielman also made a push to trade up in the first round for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who the Chicago Bears selected No. 11 overall.
Despite missing on Fields, Spielman still followed suit, selecting Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond in the third round — Minnesota’s highest-valued pick at quarterback since Teddy Bridgewater in 2012.
Mond remains Cousins’ understudy for the 2021 season, however, Davenport projected that the Vikings could accelerate Mond’s succession of Cousins if the veteran quarterback doesn’t put forth a performance that would warrant his humongous 2022 cap hit.
“Maybe the Vikings can peel off 10 or 11 wins, win a playoff game and convince owner Zygi Wilf to give the status quo one more try or even tack another year or two on Cousins’ contract,” Davenport wrote. “But it’s more likely that the Vikings will have another so-so year and roll into the 2022 offseason trying to get rid of a quarterback the franchise invested well over $100 million in (with little return on that investment) who won’t be even a little bit happy about a forced change of scenery.”