If Kirk Cousins‘ future was in question entering last week, the veteran quarterback may have just earned himself another contract extension.
Throwing for a career-high 460 yards and four touchdowns to mount the largest comeback in NFL history, Cousins is peaking at the right time of the year with the Minnesota Vikings currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
Purple Insider’s Matthew Coller speculated on Cousins’ future in Minnesota, which he expected to go well beyond the final year of his current contract, which expires next season.
Insider Expects Team to Make Kirk Cousins the ‘Vikings QB for Life’
In a December 20 episode of the Purple Insider podcast, Coller outlined the potential for another contract extension for Cousins in the offseason.
The new regime was tentative in tying itself to the quarterback was supposed to be the final piece to a championship roster in 2018 but ultimately led to the departure of Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman. Cousins inked a one-year extension last March that keeps him under contract through the 2023 season.
However, Cousins won’t want to play as a lame duck on an expiring contract next season and will likely aim for another extension after he’s shifted his narrative under the direction of head coach Kevin O’Connell.
However, it may not be as team-friendly as fans would hope given Cousins’ reputation in negotiations.
“Kirk Cousins will not take any deal that’s not great for him. that’s not a criticism it’s just a reality, Coller said. “I look at what happened against Indy as the tipping point to definitively say Kirk Cousins signs an extension. Anything can happen… but in this case, are you telling me this team is going to win 12 to 13 games and have a comeback like that — all the comebacks they’ve had — and they’re going to come to the table and say, ‘Sorry, Kirk. We’re going to the Alex Smith route.
“I’d be very surprised. That was a tipping point game where they’re going to say, ‘Let’s make him the Viking quarterback for life. We’ve proven we’ve put ourselves in a chance to win and the only way this could be changed… is if they go into the first round and score three points against Washington and lose 21-3 and get booed off the field and Cousins throws for 140 yards and gets sacked five times.”
The postseason will undoubtedly be the proving ground for Cousins who has been battling the criticism against him this entire career while leading the league with seven comeback, game-winning drives this season, per Pro Football Reference.
“All the things he’s shown this year the way the team has come around him the way he’s connected with the coach the way he’s gotten [Justin] Jefferson the ball I have a very tough time thinking that [the Vikings] are going to just be like, ‘Okay. Sorry, Kirk, you’re getting older we’re going to sign someone else. This is kind of a Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan situation with the contract. You’ve had so much success they’re probably going to react to that and probably bring him back.”
Vikings Need to Clear Cap Space Elsewhere
If the Vikings keep Cousins long-term, there will need to be a shakeup of the current roster construction similar to what happened after Cousins’ two-year contract extension in 2020.
Pending making Justin Jefferson the highest-paid wide receiver in the league along with extending Cousins, the Vikings will need to cut or restructure some costly veteran deals.
Minnesota has $101 million, roughly 44% of the expected cap space next season, sunk into just five players who will be over the age of 30 in 2023 — Cousins (34), Harrison Smith (34), Za’Darius Smith (31), Eric Kendricks (31) and Adam Thielen (33).
Dalvin Cook is also in the twilight of his career and is set to make an average $14.4 million a year for the next three seasons.
Thielen carries a hefty $19.9 million cap hit next season, which currently ranks 14th at his position, per Over the Cap. His nearly $20 million payday in 2023 is on-par with Stefon Diggs, while Thielen is averaging just 49.0 receiving yards per game this season, which ranks 49th in the league.
The new regime will eventually have to part ways with household names of the past decade, and a Cousins extension may accelerate those departures.