Speaking at the NFL Combine, newly hired general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has left the impression that the Vikings are entertaining all possibilities by not disclosing recent conversations with Cousins.
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‘Everything is in Play’
Both Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell spoke at the NFL Combine over the past two days and share a common theme: they have a vision for what the offense will look like with Cousins but remain hushed on any talks of a contract extension.
With Cousins carrying a $45 million cap hit, a contract extension or trade are the A-matter surrounding Minnesota’s offseason heading into the first day of the league year on March 16. The Vikings need to clear cap space, and Cousins’ cap hit is a top priority to begin rebuilding the roster in the new regime’s vision.
However, Cousins has “zero intention” in taking a pay cut, NFL Insider Jordan Schultz reported February 18. That leaves Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell to assess whether they are willing to commit to Cousins after his last marriage with Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman ended with both team leaders fired.
Adofo-Mensah had dinner with Cousins and his agent, Mike McCartney, although the new general manager closed the door on any details.
“We just talked general about our vision or the team and what we want to accomplish,” Adofo-Mensah said, per The Athletic’s Chad Graff. “Look, those conversations are ongoing and I can’t tell you anything at this moment.”
“He’s an incredibly consistent passer,” Adofo-Mensah said during his March 1 press conference at the combine. “I don’t think people realize it. Essentially, every play has a result built into it based on factors that he can’t control. I think what you know about Kirk, is when the odds are shifted in his favor, he gets the most out of it, right? And I think people don’t appreciate that skill enough. But he is incredibly consistent, an incredibly accurate thrower. Tough. Durable. He plays every game. He stands there and takes those hits when those throws are a little bit harder to come by. He’s an incredible player, really cerebral. He’s one of the first phone calls I made [when I got this job]. Just incredibly talented, smart, detailed. The level of detail of things we talked about was incredible. I’m excited to work with him.”
However, the Vikings have also been meeting with quarterbacks at the combine, per Graff, as Minnesota should rightfully prepare for a future without Cousins — be it in 2022 or the near future.
“Ultimately, with all these things, you have options,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Just like they have options. And ultimately we’re trying to do the best thing for us. All these things are uncertain — how he’s going to play, what’s the market going to be, all these things, this puzzle. And ultimately you’re just trying to answer it not knowing today what’s going to happen. So I wish I could tell you for certain. Everything’s in play and I hate to be that general, but everything’s in play with every player.”
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Vikings Must Find a Number They Can Agree Upon With Cousins
O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah inheriting a roster with plenty of pieces was a huge allure of the vacancies open in Minnesota.
But for the new regime to see a different fate than the former, the Vikings have to find a number they and Cousins’ camp can agree upon. Cousins needs a more formidable offensive front and a defense that won’t fold, but if he seeks a new deal worth significantly more than his $32.3 million average annual salary from his last deal, an agreement could be a tall order.
Cousins has averaged a 15.3% hold on the Vikings’ yearly cap space over his career in Minnesota. MVP quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees haven’t taken up that large of a share of a team’s cap space even in their prime years.
One quarterback who has? Russell Wilson, who took up 17.5% of the Seattle Seahawks‘ 2021 cap space and mustered a 7-10 season with a deteriorating offensive line and pass rush. The quarterback’s percentage toll on the yearly salary cap has the biggest influence on the rest of the roster and subsequent moves.
Since 2011, the median cap percentage for a Super Bowl quarterback is 8.97%, per Sportrac. Only two quarterbacks have made the Super Bowl with cap hits equal to or less than Cousins’ average with the Vikings:
Top 10 Super Bowl QB Cap Percentages
- 2009: Peyton Manning (IND): 18.8%
- 2016: Matt Ryan (ATL): 15.3%
- 2013: Peyton Manning (DEN): 14.16%
- 2021: Tom Brady (TB): 12.61%
- 2018: Tom Brady (NE): 12.42%
- 2015: Peyton Manning (DEN): 12.21%
- 2011: Eli Manning (NYG): 11.71%
- 2014: Tom Brady (NE): 11.13%
- 2011: Tom Brady (NE): 10.76%
- 2007: Eli Manning (NYG): 10.75%
If Minnesota wants to improve its team entirely, the Vikings will have to reach a deal that keeps Cousins happy at a similar rate.
Otherwise, the other options are to trade Cousins or bite the bullet and allow him to play out the final year of his contract and move on.